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Johnston calls to refurbish Pickering to reduce carbon emissions

May 9, 2022

The Toronto Star published an article on May 9 warning that Ontario's energy system is set to see a 400% increase in carbon emissions due to increased use of natural gas in the coming years. Society of United Professionals President Michelle Johnston submitted a Letter to the Editor  (below) addressing the preposterous suggestion in the article that Ontario could simply import more electricity from Quebec instead. Rather, Johnston says, refurbishing Pickering Nuclear Generating Station is the most cost-effective option for sustaining Ontario's supply of zero-emission energy.

RE: Ontario energy grid emissions set to skyrocket 400% as Ford government forced to crank up the gas

The Star’s coverage of the skyrocketing carbon emissions caused by Ontario’s energy grid is a vital part of spurring action, but it leaves readers with the misleading idea that Quebec can solve this problem for us. It even positions Quebec hydro imports as cheap and easy to arrange. If only such a silver bullet existed.

Far from having excess electricity Ontario can rely on 365 days of the year, Quebec already relies on Ontario energy exports to meet its needs in winter. Quebec is also looking at how to generate more electricity so that province can meet its plan to shift 1.5 million gas-powered vehicles to electric power by 2030.

Even if Quebec could export more power, Ontario’s independent Financial Accountability Office found that it would cost Ontario 33% more than building a large new nuclear reactor. Adding more Quebec imports to Ontario’s electricity grid isn’t fast, either. Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator found that it would take $1.4 billion and 10 years to build the necessary infrastructure to support such imports.

According to the FAO, the cheapest sources of zero-emission energy are the refurbished Bruce and Darlington nuclear reactors. It’s time for Ontario to reconsider a similar refurbishment of Pickering Nuclear, which is slated to be shutdown in 2025. The case for Pickering has changed drastically since it was last reviewed. Today, Ontario faces an electricity shortage, natural gas prices have spiked, and there is broad consensus on the need for a massive shift to electrification to fight climate change. Nuclear got us off dirty coal and now it can keep us off dirty gas.

Michelle Johnston,
President, Society of United Professionals

Further reading: Can Ontario Meet Its Baseload Power Needs With Quebec Imports? [PDF, originally published February 8, 2021]

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