$400 Billion & Counting
It is only money, but that is what the estimate is to decarbonize the Ontario electrical system. Not an easy task, not cheap and will add $100 to each homeowner's electrical bill.
Some of the costs, the concerns and challenges are starting to leak out. At Sustainable Circular Economy, a boutique firm in Vancouver that works with companies and communities to sort out the morass of challenges of addressing environmental issues, we have long been calling for truth and consequence.
In the Ontario context, we have compiled information from a number of sources. Our goal is to provide our readers with some truth and consequence about the challenges of “going green.”
Don’t get me wrong: We are not against going green. But, long after the politicians take their pensions and retire south in places like the Bahamas, we will be stuck with the results. We have one shot to do the world a world of good; with truth and consequence, our hope is that we can do it right.
What is the Ontario Target"
Ontario wants to phase out the use of natural gas as a fuel source to generate electricity by 2030. Doing this though, will result in “rotating blackouts and higher electrical bills.”1 They are suggesting a price increase of $100 per month will be required, debunking the argument that going green “could” be cheaper.
In total, by 2050, a report2 completed by the Independent Electric System Operator (IESO) for Ontario suggests the total cost will be in excess of $400 billion.
Some of the Challenges we all Face
Following are a few of the high-lights lifted from the report:
Reaching a decarbonized electricity sector by 2050 “would” require doubling of the size of the present system.
The estimated cost is “around $400 billion.” Who has ever seen a government project start with a budget and end on budget? Even if the $400 billion is low, that is a lot of money. That is an average of 16.2 billion per year which is $3 billion greater than the 2021 - 2022 Ontario deficit. Another day older and deeper in debt.
The projection is for an annual growth rate of 2.7%, with winter capacity needs tripling what they are today.
The proposal is to add 65,000 MW of new non-emitting supply including solar, wind, hydro, storage and nuclear, which will almost triple the amount of non-emitting resources from 2021.
OOPS, better up the budget. Using Site C as a reference brings the cost to a “cool” $552 billion and that does not even consider inflation as years are spent consulting, trying desperately to find locations for those nuclear plants and wind farms, fighting in court, and finding the workforce.
This includes an assumption that 15,000 MW of hydrogen could be available to replace natural gas generation. There is that “could” again. I am presuming the rationale for use of hydrogen is to attempt to eliminate the supply fluctuations of wind and solar generation. With green hydrogen, one goes from solar/wind electrical production, using that to split the H20 atom, storing the gas to be used in hydrogen-fired electrical generators. It is a “slight of hand.” Electricity in, a whole bunch of intermediary steps, and electricity out.
Tilting at windmills, “will there be enough land where to place all these new wind farms and solar farms? Exactly how much land is needed to generate a Megawatt of electricity? This is a question about energy density.”3
“The land that is needed is not just any land: it needs to be in the right spots where winds are strong, and it needs to be close enough to major power lines to be economical. This means that land use for wind farms competes with land use for other uses. That in turn will make the cost of land grow in importance .... Land use is a major consideration as we are expanding the use of renewable energy amidst our climate emergency.”4
“Therefore let us work with a number of 57 ha/MW…. The land use of 57 ha/MW can be expressed as an energy density as well… If we covered every square kilometer of beautiful PEI with wind farms, it would not be enough. We would need five PEIs, or about half of Nova Scotia. This is an enormous amount of land. Finding this amount of land in the most economical locations will be difficult.”5
This will require considerable contributions in terms of capital, labour and siting, including, a six-fold increase in the 14,000-strong labour force currently working on electricity infrastructure projects. We will have to find 64,000 highly trained people and that is only for Ontario. Where are all the trained people to come from and where will be house them when we cannot get our minds around homes for our homeless now in Canada?
And now, on to the transmission lines, substations and all the connecting parts. The IECO study suggests an area almost 14 times the size of Toronto will be needed to connect to the population centres. That is on top of having to cover land 5 times the size of PEI for the wind/solar farms.
The cost is estimated to be $425 billion An estimated cost of $375-$425 billion to effectively double the size of the system. That is an average of 16.2 billion per year which is $3 billion greater than the 2021 - 2022 deficit. Another day older and deeper in debt.
A comparison using the Site C damn project underway in British Columbia as an example. It was debated for more than 30 years - construction has begun with an estimate of 8 years to complete, at a cost of $8.5 billion, flooding 5,500 hectares and producing 1,100 MW of electricity. At that size, Ontario will need 65 Site C damn equivalents to meet its power needs by 2050
Enough is Enough
There is enough here to show that switching to a green economy will not be an easy task. Do I suggest it impossible?
It is not impossible, but we need to take a closer look at what is possible by 2030 and 2050, and put our money, not into politically correct projects, but into projects with low-hanging fruit.
For example, did you know that 57% of the vehicles on the road in Canada are light-duty pickup trucks? They are the largest polluters and focusing on reducing that fleet can have an impact greater than just about anything else that is being promoted.
Why isn’t government focusing on low-hanging fruit? - probably because they know it will be political suicide to try to sell to the public. So, we end up fighting with farmers over our food supply and “would,” “could,” “might,” being thrown at us every day to try to make us think we are doing the world a world of good.
Merry Christmas and best wishes for the New Year from all of us at Sustainable Circular Economy.