Ontario Seeks Clean Air in the Water-energy Nexus

In just three years, all coal-fired power plants here will be decommissioned through a government commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto Protocols.

Toronto is shaping up to have the cleanest energy in North America with a move toward more hydropower while increasing German-style feed-in tariffs to stimulate growth in solar, wind, biomass and other renewable sources. Hydropower, which has generated electricity for 100 years here, is still the king of Ontario’s natural energy resources.

“We think that hydropower could probably increase by up to 3,000 MW across Ontario,” said Ted Gruetzner, spokesman for Ontario Power Generation

Experience with hydropower and water technology have made Ontario a key global leader in researching the potential of the so-called “water-energy nexus.” 

“You can’t talk about energy without talking about water,” Rengarajan Ramesh, managing director of Wasserstein & Co., said during this week’s Ontario’s Global Water Leadership Summit

Transporting and treating municipal water accounts for about 5% of all electricity used in the United States. Many more summit speakers discussed the potential for technology in water-scarce regions to improve energy efficiency for everything from shale gas production to nuclear power cooling towers

Nuclear power plants will continue generating about 50% of Ontario’s electricity under the existing Long-Term Energy Plan. Ontario Premiere Dalton McGuinty has said he will continue to support existing nuclear in spite of Japan’s nuclear crisis.

While ontario has branded itself as a clean energy leader, there is still debate about its reliance on nuclear energy to reach clean air goals.

“Ontario is still planning to invest in nuclear power in a major way, making renewable energy an add-on to its plans,” said Peter Tabuns of the New Democratic Party. “The investment in nuclear will divert intellectual and financial capital to a mid-20th century technology that has recently demonstrated in Japan how wrong things can go.”

Hydropower provides 20% of Ontario’s electricity. Ontario’s hydro capacity will increase to 9,000 MW by 2018 with the addition of 200 MW at the Sir Adam Beck Generating Station near Niagara Falls

Ontario Power Generation recently bored a 6-mile tunnel with the “Big Becky” drilling machine under Niagara Falls as part of a 200 MW expansion. Adam Beck’s four stations have a total capacity of 2,278 MW now. Water near Niagara Falls will be diverted underground to a generation station.

Feed-in tariffs have also helped Ontario deploy hundreds of megawatts of wind power and solar projects, including an 80 MW solar farm, North America’s largest. Ontario has set a goal of 15,700 MW of installed capacity by 2025 for renewable energy.

The Green Energy and Green Economy Act, 2009 (GEA), helped usher in the hydro expansion and growth of renewable energy, support for electric vehicles, energy efficiency measures, and the widespread use of smart meters.

As Ontario pursues its clean air goals, it also is developing a smart grid that could eventually bring greater appreciation globally for the water-energy nexus.

“The goal of our long-term energy plan is to clean up the air and create jobs and really turn Ontario into a clean energy power house in North America,” said Paul Gerard, spokesman of the Ministry of Energy.

Ontario is
stilling planning to invest in nuclear power in a major way making
renewable energy an add on to its plans. The investment in nuclear will
divert intellectual and financial capital to a mid-20th century
technology that has recently demonstrated in Japan how wrong things can
go. I expect that the events at Fukushima will drive even more
expenditure on nuclear safety systems that will make nuclear even more
uneconomic. Ontario has a chance to make renewable power and efficiency
the core of its electricity strategy. It needs to take that opportunity.
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Robert Crowe is a technical writer and reporter based in San Antonio, Texas. He has written for Bloomberg, the Houston Chronicle, Boston Herald, StreetAuthority.com, San Antonio Express-News, Dallas Business Journal, and other publications. He covers renewable energy and sustainability for various publications. As a consultant, he works closely with companies to develop technical materials for renewable energy and sustainability strategies.

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