Nuclear Power accounts for 59% of Ontario power and enabled Ontario to become coal free for power generation

In April 2014, Ontario became the first jurisdiction in North America to fully eliminate coal as a source of electricity generation. The Thunder Bay Generating Station, Ontario’s last remaining coal-fired facility, has burned its last supply of coal.

Ontario has fulfilled its commitment to end coal generation in advance of its target of the end of 2014. Since 2003, Ontario’s coal closure plan has eliminated up to 30 megatonnes of emissions annually. 10 years ago Ontario relied on coal for 25 percent of its electricity.

Ontario is the most populous province of Canada, with a population of approximately 13.5 million permanent residents in 2013. It is Canada’s leading manufacturing province, accounting for 46% of the manufacturing GDP in 2012. Ontario has a GDP of about $700 billion. This is about the level of Switzerland and Saudi Arabia. Which would be about the 20th size economy in the world if Ontario were a country.

Other provinces also do not use coal. Newfoundland, British Columbia, Manitoba, PEI, and Quebec did not use coal. Ontario was using coal and then eliminated it. Manitoba has a coal plant that is shut off almost all the time. It is for emergency use only.

According to a 2005 independent study, “Cost Benefit Analysis: Replacing Ontario’s Coal-Fired Electricity Generation,” the estimated cost of coal generation was approximately $4.4 billion annually when health, environmental, and financial costs were taken into consideration.

Nuclear energy has played a key part in the province’s efforts. Ontario is home to all but one of Canada’s 19 currently operating nuclear power reactors, but by the end of the 1990s all four of Bruce A’s nuclear units had been laid up by then-operator Ontario Hydro.

In 2013, refurbished nuclear units came back on line and nuclear accounting for over 59% of Ontario’s electricity supply. “A coal-free electricity supply mix has led to a significant reduction in harmful emissions, contributing to cleaner air and a healthier environment,” the report notes. The number of smog days in the Greater Toronto Area dropped from 48 days in 2005 to zero in 2014.

Bruce power plant

The report highlights the long-term energy plan released by Ontario’s Ministry of Energy in December 2013, which found refurbished nuclear to be the most cost-effective option available to meet Ontario’s baseload requirements while producing no greenhouse gas emissions. The plan assumed the refurbishment of unrefurbished Bruce Power units at Bruce and Darlington, with Pickering remaining in operation until 2020. This would see a nuclear share of Ontario’s energy mix of 45-50%.

However, the report warns that future refurbishments must be coordinated to ensure continued system reliability and stable electricity prices. “If it is determined that some incremental nuclear capacity is needed beyond the 9800 MW from the refurbishment programs at Bruce and Darlington, there is also an opportunity to look at options to further increase the output from these units through technological advances,” it adds.

Bruce Power’s eight units make it the “world’s largest operating nuclear site” with a capacity of about 6,300 megawatts.

Ontario also has a huge amount of hydro resources. The Sir Adam Beck plant, which harnesses the power of the water tumbling over Niagara Falls, was upgraded in 2005. In 2013, a giant tunnel that funnels even more water to the plant was completed. To the north, several expansions of the Lower Mattagami River complex, a partnership between Ontario Power and the Moose Cree First Nation, will add up to 440 megawatts of hydro capacity when it is completed next year, essentially doubling that region’s power output.

Bruce Power says the average cost of the power it produces is only 6.2 (Canadian) cents per kilowatt-hour.

From the 2005 Ontario energy study, there is a comparison of the relative cost of different clean energy options

SOURCES – Government of Ontario, World Nuclear News, Slate, Bruce power