As part of our ongoing efforts to work for positive climate action, the David Suzuki Foundation regularly provides input into government policies. The following was submitted to Ontario's Minister of Energy, Bob Chiarelli, on June 8, 2016:
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The Honourable Bob Chiarelli
Minister of Energy
Office of the Minister, 4th Floor Hearst Block, 900 Bay St.
Toronto, ON M7A 2E1
June 8, 2016
RE: Initial thoughts on scope of the next Long-Term Energy Plan
Dear Minister Chiarelli,
Thank you for your letter of May 19 inviting the David Suzuki Foundation to offer initial thoughts on the scope of the next Long-Term Energy Plan (LTEP).
We believe the Plan's scope should be wide and ambitious, covering a range of issues including:
Nuclear power: We would like to see the Plan mandate closure of the Pickering facility by 2020. We have a number of concerns about nuclear energy, including cost, waste disposition, links to cancer and potential impacts on wildlife. A recent article in American Scientist, "Energy-Water Nexus: Head-On Collision or Near Miss?" says fish kills "have been linked on multiple occasions to high water temperatures associated with nuclear power generation."
There are also issues with uranium processing that suggest nuclear is not a solution to climate change. Writing in Scientific American, Mark Jacobson and Mark Delucchi argue, "Nuclear power results in up to 25 times more carbon emissions than wind energy, when reactor construction and uranium refining and transport are considered."
Renewable energy: The dangers of climate change make expansion of renewable power a necessity. But the 2013 LTEP foresees no growth in solar and wind power after 2021. We urge the government to use the next LTEP to mandate a major expansion of renewables in the post-2021 period. One key strategy to achieve this would be retention of the FIT program for community-run projects — especially those owned by solar co-ops.
Renewables' growth is predicated on reduced reliance on natural gas-fired generation. But with 75 per cent of natural-gas stations' contracts set to expire by 2018, the possibility of phasing out this fossil fuel is now within reach. As a recent Environmental Defence report explains, "Renewables and energy storage can take the place of gas, and our Long-Term Energy Plan can lead to fewer emissions and more support for Ontario-based clean technology."
Expanding renewables can also lead to significant job growth. As Environmental Defence makes clear, "continuing to develop increasingly low cost wind and solar energy post 2021 would not only keep the valuable supply chain the province has developed intact, it would also sustain the thousands of jobs in Ontario's renewable energy industry." It is worth remembering that from 2008 to 2014, Ontario's solar and wind sectors saw the creation of some 180,000 direct and indirect jobs.
Ontario-Quebec electricity trade: We urge the Ministry to consider purchasing more hydroelectric power from Quebec. This power could be used in at least two ways: a) to balance Ontario's variable wind and solar generation and b) to replace baseload power currently supplied by our nuclear fleet. The economics of such an undertaking, especially with respect to nuclear, look very favourable. While Pickering's fuel and operating costs are about 8.16 cents per kWh and the cost of power from a re-built Darlington would be at least 8.9 cents per kWh, Quebec water power can be purchased in a long-term contract for just six cents per kWh. Buying electricity from our eastern neighbour would not only spare us the cost and danger of managing radioactive waste, it would also save us money.
Use of natural gas for heating: We are pleased to see that Ontario's climate plan mandates net-zero emissions from new homes starting in 2030. Clearly this will entail major expansion of geothermal and electric heating systems and, over time, a significant reduction in natural-gas-fired furnaces. We urge the Ministry to extend this mandate even further and pursue a full phase-out of natural gas as a heating source. Doing so will protect Ontarians from the volatility of fossil-fuel markets and demonstrate the government's acceptance of the best climate science — which says most fossil fuels need to remain buried.
Promotion of electric vehicles: We are pleased to see the climate plan has significant support for electric vehicles, including cash incentives to purchase EVs and install charging stations and a requirement that charging stations be built in all new commercial office buildings. We are encouraged by the initial goal of five per cent of cars sold being EVs by 2020 but believe this number should rapidly increase, and it should not simply be a target; it should be mandated.
Energy efficiency: While much of the energy discussion in Ontario is about generation, it is crucial as well to focus on efficiency. We would like to see this reflected in the new LTEP. Efficiency reduces emissions but it also saves consumers money. The Ontario Power Authority estimates the cost of efficiency — i.e., of avoiding electricity use — at 3.5 cents per kWh. That compares favorably to the 8.9 cents per kWh projected for power from the re-built Darlington facility. The province should invest more dollars in conservation and fewer in high-priced nuclear.
Summary: In sum, we would like to see the next LTEP take bold measures to transform energy in Ontario. We favour a system that is far less tied to nuclear; phases out natural gas for heating and power; and is far more reliant on renewables — especially those developed by local communities. We also support initiatives to significantly expand energy storage and efficiency.
Thank you for considering the content of this letter. Please contact us should you require elaboration.
Climate Change Policy Analyst
The David Suzuki Foundation