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LETTER: Province about to make it harder for Guelph to meet its climate goals

In a letter to the editor, local environmental and social organizations express concerns about increased gas-fired power plants
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Dear members of Guelph City Council

The provincial government is about to make it much harder for Guelph to reach its climate change goals. In fact, Ontario wants to ramp up greenhouse gas pollution from gas-fired power plants by more than 300% by 2025 and by more than 400% by 2040.

Our city has two aggressive climate goals: 100% renewable energy (in all city facilities and equipment) and net zero carbon for the entire city by 2050. This one provincial move will set us back - again - in our fight against climate change.

To fuel this massive increase in climate pollution, the province recently bought 3 gas plants (for $2.8 billion). What's more, Enbridge hopes to build a new pipeline through Hamilton to import fracked gas (a type of gas that can be as dirty as coal) from the U.S.

Ontario is set to throw away close to a third of the pollution reductions we achieved by phasing out dirty coal. It will kill this success by ramping up gas-fired generation to replace the aging Pickering Nuclear Station (scheduled to close in 2024).

Fortunately, there is a better way to keep our lights on. We can meet our 2030 (provincial) climate target and lower our electricity bills by phasing-out our gas-fired power plants by 2030 and embracing lower cost and cleaner options.

Here is how we can do it:

  • Bring back energy efficiency programs that are quick-to-deploy and low-cost. We can maximize efficiency efforts by paying up to the same price per kWh for energy efficiency measures as we are currently paying for power from nuclear plants (e.g., up to 9.5 cents per kWh).
  • Return Ontario to leadership in developing increasingly low-cost renewable energy resources. It makes no sense to ignore our lower cost options for keeping our lights on while investing in high-cost nuclear rebuilds. We should support renewable energy projects that have costs that are below what we are paying for nuclear power and work with communities to make the most of these economic opportunities.
  • Accept Quebec’s offer of low-cost 24/7 power from its massive waterpower system. Quebec has offered power at less than one-half the cost of re-building our aging Darlington and Bruce Nuclear Stations and Ontario can only benefit by making a long-term deal with its green energy-rich neighbour.  Quebec’s system of reservoirs can also be used like a giant battery to backstop made-in-Ontario renewable power, eliminating the need to use gas-fired power plants. First Nations of James Bay affected by these hydro systems are supportive of exports to Ontario and will benefit financially from this approach.
  • Put in place an interim cap of 2.5 megatonnes per year on our gas plant’s greenhouse gas pollution and develop a plan to phase out all gas-fired electricity generation by 2030 to ensure Ontario meets its climate targets.
  • Use covid stimulus funding to fast track these approaches across Ontario

Our city council needs to uphold our aggressive climate goals and make it clear that Ontario needs to re-focus its energy and climate plan. While some might say this is a provincial issue, Guelph has more power than we think on this one. City council can use its influence at the Large Urban Mayor's Caucus of Ontario (LUMCO - our mayor is the chair) and at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO - our city is a long-standing member) to change this backward move.

Council members: will you demand positive climate action from the province on phasing out fossil fuel burning  - not failure?


Evan Ferrari, eMERGE Guelph Sustainability

Lin Grist, Guelph Wellington Coalition for Social Justice

Donna Jennison, Green New Deal Guelph

Jeff Overton, Extinction Rebellion Guelph

Arlene Slocombe, Wellington Water Watchers

Elizabeth Snell, KAIROS Guelph

Ruth Szaefer, Firdays for the Future Guelph

Steve Tedesco, Transition Guelph