Strategy needed on meeting Ontario’s electrical needs
With the current recession, Ontario is facing an electricity price challenge.
By Linda Bevan
December 5, 2011
Ontario is facing a severe shortage of electricity.
In 2010, Ontario imported 7.0 TWh, of which 4.5 TWh is hydro, and 2.2 TWh is from renewable energy sources. The hydro import has been cut in half since 2006, and Ontario is one the leading producers of wind and solar power, using wind as much as all but six provinces. In 2009, Ontario’s hydro imports were cut by more than half; last year alone, imports dropped 26 per cent.
Ontario’s electricity generation was 7.2 TWh in 2010. That is down from last year’s total of 7.4 TWh, and down significantly from the average for all of 2005 of 8.5 TWh. The drop in generation over the past couple of years is mainly due to nuclear. Nuclear has a lower carbon footprint than hydro, but because of its capital costs, it produces less energy than wind or solar.
The problem is that hydro, while not generating all of the electricity that is needed, is the predominant source of power. Nuclear’s contribution to Ontario’s electricity supply is also significant, but is much less than that of hydro. Nuclear is often not viable in remote, marginal areas, as it requires a substantial amount of land to be taken out of production. In addition, the uranium is not mined on a large scale, so the supply is limited. Nuclear can also be very expensive. Hydro is much more competitive globally than nuclear, and emits only a small amount of carbon – about 0.1 percent of its electricity is generated with carbon-based energy sources.
The other problem in Ontario power generation is the lack of wind power. Ontario has made great progress in its renewable energy plan, but its wind farms only cover about one per cent of the electricity demand in the province. Ontario’s grid is highly interconnected, with most electricity going to the other provinces and most of the rest being interconnecting back to Ontario. Because of that, any