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3ThoughtThursday – Coal phase out, committee report on EVs, Canada-US climate approach

Updated: May 20, 2021

Today marks an important anniversary for energy and clean air in Ontario: it’s been seven years since the province phased out coal-fired electricity generation.

Ensuring that we operate a clean grid is critical to our efforts to decarbonize and reach net zero. It is not only about electricity production, but a clean grid also allows us to do so much more in so many other sectors as we move forward with electrification effortsas you’ll see in today’s second thought about electric vehicles (EVs).

Let’s start with today’s important milestone, though:

1. Seven years since Ontario phased out coal

It is considered the largest clean-air initiative in North America and the Clean Energy Frontier region (Bruce, Grey, Huron) played a critical role. By returning Units 1-4 to service over the previous decade, Bruce Power provided the province of Ontario with 70% of the carbon-free energy that was needed to eliminate the use of coal to produce electricity.

Because of these efforts, smog days in Ontario have been all but eliminated (183 smog advisory days from 2005 to 2013 compared to only four since 2014) and Ontario now operates an exceptionally clean grid.

This work is something that we should be proud of and it is important to recognize how we achieved such a feat: nuclear power did the heavy lifting and it's still doing so today.

In fact, at the time of writing this post, Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO)’s hourly power data shows that nuclear power in the province is producing 9,163 MW of electricity. The next two closest sources are hydro-power at 4,612 MW and wind at 543 MW. We’re fortunate to have our top three generating sources come from clean sources that enable our low-carbon grid, but it’s important to recognize the essential role of nuclear in supplying that clean and reliable generation that was essential to phasing out coal and remains essential to our efforts to reach net-zero.

2. Parliamentary committee tables report on zero-emission vehicles

This week, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development tabled a report titled The Road Ahead: Encouraging The Production and Purchase of Zero-Emission Vehicles In Canada.

This highlights the shared ambitions of Canada and the United States when it comes to a netzero future and the importance of adopting a “Team North America” approach to fighting climate change.

The report is very timely and deals with a topic that we have discussed extensively on this blog: the adoption of zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs), which includes electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles.

The report contains a total of 13 recommendations to the government which include calls for the government to action on several items.

These recommendations include:

  • collecting information to support ZEV adoption

  • reviewing and funding incentive programs

  • developing Canadian ZEV supply chains and mining activities for critical minerals

  • end-of-life management for batteries

  • a national ZEV standard

  • installation of charging stations

  • greening the electricity sector, and more.

A ZEV future is coming and it’s encouraging to see this committee outline a recommended course of action to ensure that we are ready.

Of note is the inclusion of a discussion on the need to ensure that a clean grid goes hand-in-hand with an EV future. The effectiveness of ZEVs is intensified when they are charged with clean electricity.

As we discussed in topic #1 today, Ontario is leading the way on this front thanks in large part to nuclear generation in the province. This underscores that as we electrify other sectors like transportation, we’ll need nuclear more than ever to power clean grids in the province and across the country.

3. Canada-US alignment on climate ambitions

A couple of weeks ago, we discussed President Biden’s massive infrastructure plan for the United States of America and the connections it has to net zero. This week, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Hon. Jonathan Wilkinson, spoke with U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry during a High-Level Ministerial Dialogue on Climate Ambition. Some of the highlights of this discussion include:

  • Taking stock of each country’s progress toward increasing the scope of climate action at home as well as efforts to encourage other counties to do the same.

  • The importance of an aligned, enhanced ambition on methane reduction standards and transportation standards relating to fuel efficiency and the deployment of zero emission vehicles.

  • Canada’s interest in taking a continental approach to addressing methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.

This highlights the shared ambitions of Canada and the United States when it comes to a net-zero future and the importance of adopting a “Team North America” approach to fighting climate change.

--Chad Richards is the Director of the Clean Energy Frontier.


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