A burning question
Cool Tips for a hot planet series
Ginny Colling was passionate about the environment before retiring from teaching college communications students. After retiring she trained with Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project and has presented to numerous groups about the climate crisis.
We have an electric car, electric lawn mower and snow blower and eventually want to kick our natural gas furnace to the curb with an air source heat pump.
But if everyone eventually does that, where will our power come from as our nuclear reactors go on vacation to get refurbished?
The Ontario government has decided much more of our power will come from burning methane (“natural”) gas. That will increase pollution by 600 per cent by 2040, making it impossible for us to meet our already weak climate target.
Meanwhile the federal government is looking to get the country off natural gas and coal powered electricity by 2035.
Houston, we have a problem.
Planet earth is heating up and we know we have to stop burning stuff to cool it down. The International Energy Agency says we can’t afford to expand fossil fuel production or infrastructure (as Ontario is doing). The UN secretary general calls such moves “moral and economic madness.”
The recently released summary of the UN’s latest climate report says one of the best solutions for dealing with our global crisis is renewable energy like solar, wind and energy storage. In Ontario, an atmospheric fund report had a similar conclusion, that wind, solar, power storage – and energy conservation – are the cheapest ways to meet electricity demand here.
Ontario Clean Energy Options
There are enough potential offshore wind power sites in the Great Lakes to more than meet our energy demand, according to research done for the Ontario Power Authority (now Independent Electricity System Operator or IESO). And a study for the Canadian Renewable Energy Association found that expanding rooftop solar in Ontario could reduce the need for more gas power generation and save Ontario ratepayers $250 million a year.
For wind and solar to provide reliable energy on cloudy, windless days, we need power storage solutions. Those are rapidly being deployed. Canadian company Hydrostor uses compressed air to even out the energy supply. Another, in Minto, Ontario, winds up large flywheels with solar, releasing them when the power is needed. There are many other examples. The IESO is currently taking proposals for more storage projects, with the province’s blessing.
Ontario has been buying cheap hydropower from Quebec since 2016. We could buy more. Unfortunately, the government recently indicated it will not renew that contract, which expires this year.
Ontario could also increase investment in energy conservation programs to help homeowners and businesses save money by reducing consumption and shifting demand to off-peak hours.
Homeowners can help by taking advantage of the federal government’s Canada Greener Homes program. In Ontario, in partnership with Enbridge, it provides up to $10,600 in grants and $40,000 in interest-free loans to support energy efficiency upgrades that would reduce demand for fossil fuel power. To find out more, search Home Efficiency Rebates Plus on Enbridge’s website. For those in Lindsay or within 50 km of Peterborough, call GreenUP at 705-536-9943.
It’s easy to lament the short-sightedness of a government that cancelled 752 clean energy projects in 2018 and cut energy conservation spending by 60 per cent. What’s past is past. We need to urge them to get on board with the clean energy future now. And to stop the “moral and economic madness” by burning less natural gas, not more.