Eliminating coal-fired electricity was supposed to either drive Ontario electricity prices through the roof or put the lights out altogether. At least that was what critics of Ontarioâ€™s groundbreaking coal phase out liked to claim. The reality is that the province reached an all-time low in 2009 for coal use, the lights have stayed on and electricity prices remain at the low end of the North American scale. Now, the Ontario Clean Air Alliance (OCAA) is calling on the province to go all the way â€“ to put its four remaining coal plants (including Nanticoke â€“ the largest coal plant in North America) on “standby reserve” between now and the governmentâ€™s official 2014 deadline for permanently ending coal use.
The OCAA is pointing out that Ontarioâ€™s coal-free generation capacity is now 23% higher than the provinceâ€™s forecast peak day electricity demand for the summer of 2010. And according to Ontarioâ€™s Independent Electricity System Operator, the province will continue to have a comfortable coal-free power surplus between now and 2014 even as the economy rebounds thanks to efficiency and conservation efforts and new generation projects coming online, in part in response to Ontarioâ€™s groundbreaking Green Energy Act, which pays a premium for renewable power.
Under the OCAAâ€™s plan, the dirty coal plants would only be run in an unlikely emergency situation where there was no other option (and would not be run simply to sell dirty power to New York or others neighbours). For Canadians used to seeing their federal government dodge, weave and deny in order to avoid taking any action on climate, Ontarioâ€™s steady effort to eliminate coal use is a real breath of fresh air â€“ and a chance to come out of hiding for at least a few minutes at international climate meetings. You can find out more at www.cleanairalliance.org.