Kingston City Council urges province to phase out gas-powered electric plants

City Council discussing a motion to write to provincial ministers regarding gas-fired power plants.

Kingston City Council unanimously passed a motion at their meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, moving that the City of Kingston write to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and the Minister of Environment, Conservation, Energy, and Parks to request that the Government of Ontario develop and implement a plan to phase-out all gas-fired electricity generation as soon as possible to ensure that Kingston and other municipalities are enabled to achieve climate action goals.

The City of Kingston was the first city in Ontario to declare a Climate Emergency, and has a goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2040. The province of Ontario is phasing out the Pickering Nuclear Power plant in 2024, and plans to increase the output of natural gas-powered plants as the demand for electricity increases. An increase in gas plant production will see greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions rise, which is counterproductive to the province’s goal of a 30 per cent reduction of GHG emissions by the year 2030.

Two delegations spoke to council, describing Ontario’s current and forecasted power needs, and the pros and cons of available power generation options.

Jack Gibbons, from the Ontario Clean Air Alliance, spoke about Quebec’s surplus Hydroelectric power, and shared some ideas for future cross-provincial electrical agreements. He also asked the City to consider joining the other municipalities in Ontario in passing a resolution requesting Ontario start phasing out our gas-fired power plants to help Ontario, and the City of Kingston, achieve their climate targets.

“We all know that the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine, and therefore wind and solar need a backup or a storage option,” Gibbons said. ”Ontario is very lucky to be located right next door to Quebec. There’s a recent study from MIT, which shows that Quebec’s hydroelectric reservoirs are the best and lowest cost storage option, or backup option, for wind and solar.”

“The reservoirs can act like a giant battery and help us convert wind and solar from an intermittent source of electricity into a firm baseload source of electricity supplied 24/7,” he continued. “By integrating our wind and solar with Quebec’s hydroelectric reservoirs, wind and solar power can be a firm reliable source of supply.”

Terry Young, interim President and CEO of the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) spoke to council on the province’s electricity needs, how they are currently being met, and what they want to see happen in the future.

The IESO is an agency whose primary job is to manage reliability of the power system, ensuring electricity is available when and where it is needed across the province. Young said that each year the IESO produces what they call a Planning Outlook that looks out over the next 20 years and projects what Ontario’s needs might be.

Nuclear and hydro power are meeting 85 per cent of Ontario’s power needs, according to Young, with solar and wind providing less than 10 per cent due to their inconstant ability to create electricity. Gas power is used to make up the difference, and has greater flexibility for meeting increased needs, as well as reducing output when needs are low.

“The key point I want to make is this that we need flexibility in the system,” Young explained to council.

“One of the attractive things that we’re starting to look at is pairing wind and solar with storage,” Young continued. “Then you get the opportunity to increase the value of wind and solar cells. If they’re producing, we can store it and then supply it back when the demands for electricity are on, then it gives us another option. So, in terms of the future of gas, one of the things that it depends on is how quickly some of these technologies can be developed.”

Councillor Bridget Doherty put forth her thoughts on this proactive motion.

“We’ve all been receiving frequently emails from people, or constituents, saying ‘You’ve declared a climate emergency. What are you doing about it?’ And tonight we have a couple of very positive examples about what we’re doing about reducing greenhouse gases,” she said.

“I think that this [motion], and the other actions we’ve taken tonight, clearly address the fact that we unanimously passed a climate emergency motion a year and a bit ago. And so this is our opportunity to show that we mean what we say.”

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