After more than a decade of healthy electricity supply, concerns are mounting that Ontario is entering a period of electricity shortfalls.
Demand is growing. Our population is increasing, up 5.8% over the last 5 years. Factoring the drop in immigration due to the pandemic, something that should pick up again when things return to normal, and the coming years should see even more growth. This is compounded by the growing electricity demands of everyday life as well as climate conscious decisions like more electric vehicles and a move away from natural gas heating.
As demand increases, the supply side is facing its own challenges. The Pickering Nuclear Generation Station is planned to be fully retired by the end of 2025. Other investments in nuclear refurbishments, renewed contracts, and resources are needed in the near future.
The Independent Electricity System Operator is forecasting capacity to fall short of demand by the mid-2020’s with the gap widening from there. They estimate the province will need to find 12 gigawatts of power of over the next 20 years.
A recent policy statement from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce called Addressing Ontario’s Growing Electricity Needs lays out how critical the situation is. Regardless of what route we go to supply that capacity, it takes years to plan and develop not only the power generation, but also the transmission and distribution infrastructure.
Additionally, the Province is planning to achieve zero-emission electricity generation, which will have to include phasing out natural gas-powered plants. The Province is currently looking into options to pick up capacity like biomass and hydroelectric generation, including new contracts for small hydroelectric projects.
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce states that given the time it takes to operationalize electricity infrastructure, it is imperative that Ontario continue taking steps today to secure reliable, affordable, and sustainable resources for future generations. Relying on importing electricity won’t be able to meet all our capacity needs and there’s volatility with other regions forecasted to need additional supply as well.
Having sufficient and affordable electricity is critical to the economic success of our province. Industry and have made significant investments in electrification, especially in resource extraction and manufacturing.
There are also opportunities for our businesses as we reinvest in electricity generation and transmission. The OCC is advocating with the Ontario Government to ensure local businesses will be an integral part of these investments. They’re calling on the Province to continue consulting with industry to ensure there is a competitive and transparent process for contracts that leverages existing assets where possible.
While the government has been making steps to address these issues, the timeline is getting tight. It’s time to make the investments we need to secure reliable, affordable, and sustainable electricity that both people and businesses need.