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    Replacing gas generation not feasible, Canadian study shows


Phase-out would add $100/month to residential power bills

by: Dale Lunan

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Replacing gas generation not feasible, Canadian study shows

Removing natural gas by 2030 from the power generating mix in Canada’s largest province, Ontario, would result in power blackouts, hinder electrification and push residential power bills up by 60%, a study released October 7 shows.

The report, by Ontario’s Independent Electric System Operator (IESO), responds to resolutions from 31 Ontario municipalities calling for the complete phase-out of gas-fired power generation in the province by 2030.

But such an accelerated removal of natural gas – which has provided grid reliability since coal was phased out seven years ago – would cost more than C$27bn (US$21.6bn) to install new sources of supply and upgrade the province’s transmission infrastructure. That translates into a 60%, or C$100, increase to monthly residential power bills, the IESO says.

Newer forms of supply, such as modular nuclear generation or storage, are not yet ready to operate at the scale needed to replace natural gas.

“Even if these practical considerations could be overcome, the most optimistic assumptions show that without gas generation, Ontario’s electricity system would see frequent and sustained blackouts in 2030,” the report says. “As evidenced by the recent blackouts in California [and even more recently by the energy crisis in Europe], there is a considerable risk in not having a diverse supply mix effectively balanced against the variability of solar and wind output.”

Lesley Gallinger, the IESO’s CEO, said Ontario’s electricity system, which relies heavily on nuclear and hydroelectric generating sources, is already 94% emissions-free, following the phase-out of coal.

“This gives us a real advantage when it comes to electrification – our system offers an immediate and cost-effective approach to emissions reduction from other sectors in the economy,” she said.

With only 3% of the province’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions coming from the power sector, compared to 38% from transportation, Ontario drivers could cut their emissions by 97% by switching to electric vehicles, the report says.