Does the Wynne Government Get It?

The government of Ontario has recently announced that it will be implementing a Cap and Trade system to put a price on carbon, to reduce our climate emissions. This comes after they shut down the coal generating stations, North America’s largest single climate initiative. Good on them. So what on earth are we thinking in providing a subsidy to communities to provide access to imported natural gas?

The government announced $200 million in loans, and $30 million in grants to broaden access to natural gas in communities that don’t have it.

Natural gas emissions are lower than oil, but are similar to propane. Virtually of our gas is imported, much of it from fracking, with its associated impacts. Meanwhile, we are curtailing water power, wind power and nuclear power at times, because we have too much made in Ontario electricity. And we pay generators to curtail.

Ontario’s electricity system is currently very low emission. Only about 11% of our supply comes from burning natural gas. The rest is nuclear, water, wind, solar, and biomass.

Instead of paying generators to curtail, why don’t we offer that low emission power at a discount to consumers who use electric heat, many of whom are in areas not served by natural gas?

The UK had a program a few years ago called the white meter program. Utilities offered very cheap off peak power (night time) to consumers to provide heat. Consumers built heat storage into their homes – this could be a hot water tank, or ceramic or rock mass, that can be heated at night, and releases heat during the day. The utility’s surplus nighttime power disappeared.

It shouldn’t be too difficult to make this dispatchable, so the IESO could send a signal over wi-fi networks to homes to turn on their heat storage during times of surplus electricity. This would sop up our electricity surpluses and our curtailment fees, reduce our emissions, and provide rate relief in rural Ontario. The energy and jobs would stay in Ontario. A Wynne, win, win, win, win.

If we are to tackle climate change, we need all hands on deck. Subsidizing imported natural gas and its associated emissions is going the wrong direction.

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