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Let’s finish the job on getting polluting fossil gas out of our electricity sector

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In Climate Change
Aug 17th, 2023
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The federal government has taken an important step toward reducing climate damaging emissions from electricity production with newly released rules that could help set the stage for meeting our energy needs with zero carbon electricity.

As proposed, the federal Clean Electricity Regulations will lead to a significant drop in emissions from the electricity sector. But there is still quite a bit of work to be done to make sure the federal plan is effective.

One of the biggest problems with the the draft regulations is that they allow for business-as-usual in the electricity sector until the new rules kick in in 2035. This is not a sensible approach given that we need to start reducing emissions now – not a decade from now. The government needs to put in place interim targets for electricity sector emission reductions to ensure that Ontario and other provinces are steadily ratcheting down emissions – not ratcheting them up as Ontario currently plans to do.

The coal phase-out succeeded because coal plant emissions were steadily decreased over a number of years. We need a similar approach for gas-fired electricity emissions now. As it stands, the regulations will not stop Ontario from increasing gas plant emissions by more than 350% by 2035. That is, under Doug Ford’s plan, 20% of Ontario’s electricity will be produced by fossil gas in 2034 (up from 4% in 2017). This is not acceptable.

The draft regulations also make it possible to continue building new gas plants, and expanding existing plants, in the near term. That’s not just bad news for our climate – it is completely unnecessary. We have plenty of better alternatives to building gas plants. If the plan is to phase-out gas, allowing the building of new gas plants makes no sense. This loophole needs to be tightly closed.

The draft regulations also make provisions for the “emergency” use of fossil gas-fired power post-2035. This needs to be tightly defined to ensure that the gas plants are only run during unexpected extreme events when there really are no alternatives to running polluting gas plants. Under the current draft regulations, Ontario Power Generation’s huge Napanee gas plant will be allowed to run at full capacity 24/7 until 2040.

If the Trudeau government wants to successfully meet Canada’s climate targets for the first time, it needs to address these flaws in the draft regulations. Otherwise, it will be another case of “good intentions, weak outcomes,” which is something we can’t afford in the face of the rapidly growing impacts of climate change.

There will now be an extensive consultation period on the draft regulations. We need to ensure that during this period, the regulations are improved, not watered down. We’ll provide more information on how you can participate in these consultations during the coming weeks.

Angela Bischoff for the Ontario Clean Air Alliance team

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