With coal out of the way, cars are now Ontario’s CO2 villain

Despite the fact that earlier this year Ontario Power Generation shut its last coal-fired capacity in an effort to reduce CO2 emissions, Ontario Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller said July 9 that the Canadian province “needs to get back in the game” on climate change.

“The latest scientific evidence shows that the pace of climate change is accelerating,” said Miller. “Extreme weather events have increased dramatically around the world. Here in Ontario though, the provincial government hasn’t even delivered on commitments it made seven years ago.”

Miller on July 9 released “Looking for Leadership: The Costs of Climate Inaction,” the 2014 version of his annual report on the government’s progress in reducing greenhouse gases (GHG) and meeting the reduction targets contained in its Climate Change Action Plan.

The report shows that the government will likely meet its 2014 target (a 6% reduction in emissions below 1990 levels) largely because of the shutdown of the province’s coal plants. “But it’s not going to meet its 2020 target,” said Miller, “because it has taken very little additional action to implement the Climate Change Action Plan it released seven years ago.”

Miller pointed out that transportation, mainly cars and trucks, is the biggest source of GHG emissions in the province. “The 2007 Action Plan said the government would reduce transportation emissions by 19 megatonnes (Mt) by 2020. That goal, unfortunately, has now been cut by almost 80%. I have been given no reason why, and no explanation about what the Ontario government plans to do instead.”

Miller says the province has lost the leadership position it once had. “British Columbia has brought in a carbon tax, Quebec has implemented a cap-and-trade system for carbon credits,” he said. “Meanwhile, Ontario appears to have lost the ambition it once had and won’t even look at directives to ensure more compact urban development or a serious commitment to using electricity for transportation.”

The report also pointed to progress in the U.S. “California is a long-time climate action leader among U.S. states, but it is not alone. The states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont implemented the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in 2003 to cap and reduce CO2 emissions from the electricity sector. Following a 2012 program review, the cap was tightened by 45 per cent, and will subsequently decline by 2.5 per cent each year from 2015 to 2020.”

The electricity sector’s contribution to Ontario’s total GHG emissions has dropped since its peak in 2000. Compared against the base year of 1990, GHG emissions associated with electricity production declined by 43% by 2012. In 2012, emissions from electricity were 9% of the province’s total inventory, compared to just over 14% in 1990 (and 21% in 2000). The last coal-fired generating station, OPG’s Thunder Bay station, ceased using coal on April 15, 2014.

Bruce Power says it took up a lot of the coal shutdown slack

Nuclear generator Bruce Power said July 10 that the Miller report does show the role that the company’s recently refurbished nuclear capacity has had in helping the province off of coal and into a cleaner future.

“More electricity from Bruce Power nuclear means cleaner air for families across Ontario,” said James Scongack, Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Bruce Power. “We recognize the future refurbishment of the rest of our nuclear units is a key pillar in the province’s plan to keep the air clean.”

The return of 3,000 MW of Bruce Power-operated nuclear capacity over the past decade has generated 70% of the energy needed to shut down all of Ontario’s coal plants, Scongack said. In 2013, production from Bruce Power nuclear helped Ontario avoid 31 million tonnes of CO2, which is the equivalent of taking six million cars off the road.

Bruce Power operates the world’s largest operating nuclear generating facility and is the source of roughly 25% of Ontario’s electricity. The company’s site in Tiverton, Ontario, is home to eight CANDU reactors. Formed in 2001, Bruce Power is an all-Canadian partnership among TransCanada, Borealis Infrastructure Management (a division of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System) as well as the Power Workers’ Union and Society of Energy Professionals.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.