Pollution Probe Releases New Report on How the GTA Can Keep its Clean Electricity When Pickering retires

Toronto, ON – 4 March, 2020 – Pollution Probe is pleased to announce the release of our new report, Replacing Pickering: The Next Step in the GTA’s Clean Energy Transition. The project was supported by funding from The Atmospheric Fund.

In all the extensive discussion around the Pickering nuclear plant and the possibilities of extending its operations, the one thing that has not been talked about is what we do when it inevitably closes.

Pickering has been providing climate friendly electricity to Ontario — particularly to the Greater Toronto Area – for almost half a century but will retire by 2025. When it does, the default response will be to increase electricity generation from natural gas – which alone would more than double climate change emissions from electricity.

Ontario is justifiably proud of its low-emission power, with 95% coming from clean sources, a fact celebrated in the government’s environment plan. Since Pickering’s closure was decided, no plan has been developed to replace it with non-emitting solutions. As a result we need to examine what non-emitting solutions can be deployed by 2025 to help retain Ontario’s clean grid.

Given that much of Pickering’s electricity is used in the GTA, and that many municipalities have ambitious emissions-reduction targets, GTA residents, governments and businesses need to consider what they can do to help preserve our low-emissions electricity system.

Using results from a literature review and a multi-stakeholder workshop with major utilities, government, industry and civil society, Pollution Probe’s report shows filling the gap with non-emitting options by when Pickering closes in 2025 is an ambitious goal, but it is achievable. What we heard was that increasing energy efficiency and developing small scale clean electricity solutions could fill the gap.

Reducing demand will be key. Ontario has improved energy efficiency over the years, helping reduce consumer bills and the need for new electricity, and this should continue. But we need to target energy efficiency where it can provide the greatest value, like specific areas of the grid where reducing demand could avoid the need for new utility infrastructure, or during times of high demand (e.g., mid-summer) when the alternative would be to burn more natural gas.

We cannot, of course, conserve our way out of needing more power. Renewable energy has had bad press in Ontario due to high costs, but the market has shifted. Renewables, developed in a way that provides value to the grid, are now often the lowest-cost option.

These actions provide benefits beyond reducing emissions – including building resiliency to extreme weather and local economic development. There is an opportunity to keep our electricity clean, while also saving consumers money. To get there, Ontario’s energy policy, market and regulatory systems need to be updated. In the short-term, electric vehicle owners can benefit by shifting charging to low-demand hours. Utilities should properly consider the cost and benefits of conservation and small clean energy systems and compensate appropriately for all the value they can add.

“We have solutions to help Ontario retain its clean power supply, which is important for all Ontarians, not just those in the GTA,” says Richard Carlson, Director of Energy at Pollution Probe. “However, for an effective transition, political commitment to supporting these goals is needed.”

About Pollution Probe

Pollution Probe is a national, not-for-profit, charitable organization which is improving the health and well-being of Canadians by advancing policy that achieves positive, tangible environmental change. It is a leader in building successful partnerships with industry and government to develop practical solutions for shared environmental challenges.

For more information contact:

Sabah Ibrahim
Research and Communications Coordinator, Pollution Probe
Tel: 416 926 1907 x 245

Media Contacts:

Richard Carlson – Director, Energy
Pollution Probe
416-926-1907 x 251

Manasvi Thakur, PR Manager
Bubblegum Canada
(437) 366-4207