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Guelph Students Take the Lead on Phasing out Gas Plants in Ontario

Written by Lin Grist, Guelph Chapter 

On December 14, five high school students and one university student deputed to Guelph city council asking them to pass a motion to phase out gas plants in Ontario. Their message to the Council:  while most of us can’t vote yet, we care deeply about the climate crisis. We need you to protect our future and the future of the planet.

Students Paloma Thompson, Indigo Kim and Andrea Baker

Students Paloma Thompson, Indigo Kim and Andrea Baker

Guelph Council passed this motion 11-1. One Councillor recused himself because he works for Ontario Power Generation (OPG). The City of Guelph moved that the Province of Ontario:

  1. Establish an interim cap of 2.5 Mega tonnes per year on our gas plant’s greenhouse gas pollution as soon as possible and develop a plan to phase out all gas-fired electricity generation by 2030 to ensure Ontario meets its climate targets, and 
  2. That a copy of this resolution be sent to the Premier of Ontario, MPP Mike Schreiner, and AMO.

Early in 2020, the Ontario Clean Air Alliance started a campaign to have the Ontario government phase out gas fired energy plants to reach our greenhouse gas emission targets.

According to Ontario’s Auditor General, we need to implement measures that will reduce our greenhouse gas pollution by an additional 7.3 to 14 million tonnes per year to achieve our 2030 climate targets.  A phase-out of Ontario’s gas plants would provide our province with all. or virtually all, the incremental pollution reductions that it needs to achieve the 2030 climate target.

In 2019, Ontario Power Generation (OPG), which is owned by the provincial government, finalized a deal in April  2019  to buy three natural gas assets from TC Energy, formerly known as TransCanada, . at a cost to the public of $2.9 billion dollars. As a result, OPG is now Ontario’s largest fossil-fuel electric utility.

Quebec is offering us spot hydro for approximately 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) and if we asked for a firm commitment of energy (i.e. we would be first in line) they would be asking for 5 cents per kWh. We have the grid power to accept enough hydro electric energy for the province at the moment. It is anticipated that if we require more over time, likely in about 10 years, the province will need to invest approximately $80 million on new lines in the Ottawa area to support the grid.

By comparison, nuclear energy is currently 9.5 cents per kWh which is predicted to rise to 16.5 cents per kWh by 2025. Gas-fired energy is currently between 10.7 cents and 12.6 cents per kWh – but rates vary between the private companies that supply the plants. (Note: these rates were listed on the Enbridge website October 2020.)

Ontario plans to bring in fracked gas (this is the system in which water and chemicals are blasted into rock to free the gas) from both western Canada and from Pennsylvania.  There are currently no firm costs for the fracked gas, as there are issues with building new pipelines to bring the gas to Ontario. According to Enbridge (one of the private companies involved) the cost of building new pipelines will increase the cost of energy to the consumer.

The following 12 municipalities have already passed motions asking the province to phase out gas plants: 

City of Kitchener, Town of Halton Hills, Township of Woolwich, City of Hamilton, City of Burlington, City of Kingston, Township of King, City of St. Catharines, Township of Selwyn, City of Windsor, City of Guelph and Town of Cobourg.

The Clean Air Alliance is providing support to communities who want the provincial government to phase out gas plants. It was the Clean air Alliance, who in the early 2000s spear-headed the campaign to phase out coal-fired energy plants which led to a huge decrease in greenhouse gasses in Ontario.

Start a campaign in your community.

  • Contact Angela Bischoff, the Director of the Clean Air Alliance for additional background information:  https://www.cleanairalliance.org/ 
  • Or, contact me directly at lingrist@chrysalisconsulting.com. Every municipality is different, but those of us who have persuaded our municipal council to pass the motion are happy to share our strategies and tactics. 

I’m asking all Ontario Council chapters to join me in working in this priority area of climate change mitigation.