Ontario Construction News staff writer
Ontario is in a strong position to decarbonize its rapidly growing electricity grid, with a moratorium on new natural gas generation being feasible starting in 2027, according to a new report by Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO).
The report also finds that a decarbonized electricity sector by 2050, alongside aggressive electrification targets, would require a system more than double the size it is today at an estimated cost of around $400 billion.
“The IESO’s Pathways to Decarbonization report is a great first step in exploring ways to decarbonize the electricity grid,” said Colin Best, president, Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO). “As municipal governments experience climate change impacts first-hand, we know the important role that clean energy plays. We look forward to being involved in future consultations as this work progresses.”
The IESO’s Annual Planning Outlook, Conservation and Demand Management Framework Mid-Term Review, and Pathways to Decarbonization, highlight the progress being made to prepare Ontario’s electricity system for the future as well as the work needed to address the challenges ahead.
“With one of the cleanest electricity grids in North America, Ontario has a real advantage in enabling the decarbonization of the broader economy,” said Lesley Gallinger, president and CEO of the IESO. “The process of fully eliminating emissions from the grid itself, however, will be a significant and complex undertaking.
“Through our ongoing commitment to work with a wide range of partners to assess risks and overcome challenges, we believe it is possible to achieve an orderly transition toward a decarbonized electricity system that remains reliable, affordable and sustainable.”
The Pathways to Decarbonization report finds Ontario could begin moving toward a decarbonized grid starting with a moratorium on new gas generation beginning in 2027, “as long as sufficient non-emitting supply were to be in place to meet growing electricity demand.”
By 2035, the report concludes, the provincial system could be “less reliant on the natural gas fleet, lowering emissions by 60 per cent below the IESO’s original forecasts.”
The IESO has identified a number of “no regret” actions that could be taken as the province moves towards decarbonization, including continuing competitive efforts to acquire non-emitting supply; expanding energy-efficiency programming post-2024; beginning planning and siting work for nuclear, storage, hydro and transmission projects that require long-lead times to develop; galvanizing collaboration amongst stakeholders; and continuing support for low-carbon fuels such as hydrogen.
Two other IESO reports demonstrate the work already underway to prepare Ontario’s electricity system for the future.
“This report clearly illustrates the scope and magnitude of work necessary to grow and decarbonize the electricity system to support electrification and a thriving economy,” said Ken Hartwick, president and CEO, Ontario Power Generation (OPG). “A mix of generation technologies is consistent with OPG’s ‘all-hands-on-deck’ approach to meeting growing energy needs, and we look forward to advancing much-needed new generation in partnership with Indigenous communities.”
The Government of Ontario directed the IESO to undertake competitive procurements that target up to 2,500 MW of storage – the largest planned procurement of clean energy storage in Canada’s history – and up to 1,500 MW of natural gas generation to be in-service between 2025-2027 to meet near-term needs.