Phasing out coal plants still part of the plan Cathy Dobson, July 4, 2009

Re: Stalled nuclear expansion boosts electricity plant

The province has suspended the nuclear procurement decision until a better price is achieved, but let me be clear in saying that there is no change in our government’s plan to eliminate coal from Ontario’s energy supply mix.

These two issues are distinct and unrelated. The new nuclear units were anticipated for service no sooner than 2018, while Ontario’s coal phase out is well on track for the end of 2014. In fact, annual coal fired generation in Ontario has decreased significantly since 2003 -- and in 2008, Ontario’s electricity production from coal reached its lowest level in over a decade.

Phasing out coal is not without its challenges, but according to the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), Ontario’s energy system is well positioned to replace coal with new generation already in place or in schedule.

Since 2003 Ontario has brought nearly 7,000 MW of capacity online, of which more than 1,000 MW is new renewable energy. The province also achieved its first conservation target of 1,350 MW in 2007. With the passage of Ontario’s Green Energy Act, we will see this progress continue.

To complement our efforts in renewable energy and conservation, new gas-fired generation has come on line, such as the Greenfield Energy Centre in Sarnia-Lambton. This station is a key element of our off-coal strategy and the expansion of cleaner and renewable supplies of electricity in the province. To date, the amount of generation available from gas fired generators has already surpassed its coal equivalent and will continue to grow with such initiatives as the procurements underway in northern York Region and the southwest Greater Toronto Area.

The key question remaining for Ontario’s coal plants is whether they will be torn down or whether it is feasible to convert some of the facilities to burn biomass to generate electricity as part of our government’s ambitions towards a coal-free, greener and more reliable energy supply mix.

George Smitherman

Deputy Premier, Minister of Energy and Infrastructure