TORONTO - Ontario's energy mix could be virtually
100 per cent coal-free by next year, especially
if the government boosted conservation by residents
and acted boldly with its upcoming Green Energy
Act, suggests a new report.
As of December, Ontario had a maximum energy capacity
of 33,045 megawatts, or 26,611 megawatts after subtracting
the power generated from its coal plants.
By June 2010, the government hopes to have an additional
3,913 megawatts of coal-free power available for
consumption. That would push its total capacity
well beyond the record-high electricity demand of
27,005 megawatts set on Aug. 1, 2006.
The numbers suggest Ontario can phase out its use
of coal-fired electricity well before its self-imposed
deadline of Dec. 31, 2014 and the province should
commit to only using those dirty plants in emergency
situations, said Jack Gibbons, chairman of the Ontario
Clean Air Alliance, which released the report.
"We haven't called for a complete coal phase-out
but we're saying to only operate the coal when there's
no other option to keep the lights on," Gibbons
"Ending coal use five years ahead of the government's
official deadline would be the equivalent of taking
an extra 2.3 million cars off the road each year
between 2010 and 2014."
The Independent Electricity System Operator, which
runs Ontario's electrical system, said it's not
confident about accelerating the coal phase-out
plan, and added that the new power coming online
next year will be largely gas-fired and may not
be 100 per cent reliable right away.
"With the amount of gas that's being introduced
there are going to be some teething problems," said
spokesman Terry Young.
He also said the province needs a sizable buffer
of power for contingency purposes and there's no
way to guarantee how much of the province's total
capacity will be available at any given time.
He cited Ontario's wind power as being particularly
unreliable for baseload power.
"First of all, those units don't always operate,"
"And during the peak, wind availability is not
that high. To take you back to the summer last year,
the output of wind varied from as low as two megawatts
one afternoon (in the summer) to over 700 during
Gibbons countered that there's still lots of unutilized
potential for conservation and said the government
should convince another one million homeowners to
sign up for the Ontario Power Authority's "peaksaver"
program, which automatically reduces energy consumption
when demand gets too high.
He said that could cut demand by 1,000 megawatts,
giving the province an even larger buffer.
Any additional measures in the province's Green
Energy Act - which Energy Minister George Smitherman
has promised will be bold - would only make the
goal more attainable, Gibbons said.
"We're counting on minister Smitherman to deliver
a Green Energy Act that will give a huge boost to
energy efficiency and renewables," he said.