To achieve zero-carbon energy, Ontario must stop all unnecessary uses of fossil fuels, including essentially all fossil fuel uses in electricity generation and in buildings, as soon as is practical.
In Ontario, the main fossil fuel still used for electricity generation and in buildings is fossil (so-called “natural”) gas imported from outside Ontario.
Fossil gas prices fluctuate uncontrollably, exposing Ontarians to the risks of global price shocks and forcing people to ship money and jobs out of the province to pay for energy. Ontario can increase energy security, reduce risk and improve our economy by using energy more efficiently and producing clean energy at home.
Fossil gas prices have usually been low in recent years due to fracking, low or nonexistent carbon prices, and widespread gas infrastructure amortized and subsidized over many years. Fossil gas has been so cheap that even a $170/tonne carbon price may not create a business case for eliminating fossil fuel burning in electricity and in buildings. A higher carbon price, together with regulations, subsidies for those in need and incentives, will be needed to ensure that businesses and homeowners make their buildings efficient and switch their heating to fossil-free alternatives in time to stay within Ontario’s Fair Share Carbon Budget.
Eliminating most burning of fossil gas will have short-term costs but also many benefits. It will allow Ontarians to keep our energy money at home, and create good jobs.
Importing and using fossil gas drains billions of dollars out of the province and also harms human health. Indoor fossil gas combustion degrades indoor air quality. The supply chain for fossil gas, especially from fracking, leaks unburned methane into the atmosphere, a powerful greenhouse gas that also hurts human health by contributing to ground-level ozone and smog.
The key metric for zero-carbon energy will be how fast and how low we can push greenhouse gases from energy production and use.
The Green Party’s key policies for avoiding energy waste and getting fossil gas out of electricity generation as soon as possible are essential to decarbonizing our economy and will increase resilience to climate impacts. They include:
Waste not, want not
Ontario will stop wasting so much energy and help people and businesses save money by saving energy by:
- Redirecting the $6 billion-per-year taxpayer subsidy for electricity prices to support energy efficiency and climate action.
- Helping low income, rural, and remote households reduce their energy bills with targeted energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.
- Incentivizing replacement of high cost, inefficient baseboard heating with high efficiency air- and ground-source heat pumps.
- Establishing strong, integrated conservation programs for electricity, gas and water, including:
- Increasing funding for conservation programs for people with low incomes, including grants for replacing electric resistance heating with heat pumps.
- Allowing clothes lines everywhere.
- Ensuring that multi-unit buildings improve energy efficiency and then install individual meters for every unit.
- Introducing incentives for reusing and sharing heat, e.g.:
- Community ground-source heat pumps under parks, laneways and other shared spaces.
- Sharing refrigeration equipment, excess industrial heat, data centres, exhaust air, wastewater) and cold, (e.g. from lake water).
- Changing the building code and retrofitting buildings so that they require less energy to operate, including low-cost changes such as:
- Insulation, awnings, natural air flow.
- Cool, blue, green and solar roofs.
Reduce peak demand
Since electricity is much more expensive to provide at peak (e.g. hot summer days and cold winter nights, when Ontario uses the most electricity), we will:
- Shift electricity use away from the expensive peak hours:
- Use clear time-of-use pricing to make power much cheaper off-peak, to incentivize storage and off-peak use.
- Mandate electric utilities to actively manage loads and to find productive uses for off-peak power such as charging electric vehicles.
- Give utilities the ability to turn down some high-load equipment at peak, such as air conditioners and water heaters.
- From 2025, require new residential EV charging infrastructure to be bi-directional so that EV batteries can store electricity for daily peaks, once the batteries are designed to do so.
- Provide low-income households with programmable tools to save money by shifting the use of high energy appliances to off-peak times.
- Adopt very strict efficiency standards:
Especially for air conditioning and other equipment used at summer and winter peaks, to at least match the highest North American standards.
Double Ontario’s electricity supply with renewables and storage
To replace the fossil fuels that Ontario now imports at great expense, double Ontario’s electricity supply (capacity and energy) to supply about 270 terrawatt-hours of annual energy demand by 2040:
- Add renewable power:
- Modelling suggests that the lowest cost renewable power would be about 45,000 MW of wind and 27,000 MW of solar.
- Increase Ontario’s hydro power and pumped storage, where feasible without environmental damage, e.g. by repowering existing dams and repairing old ones, or to serve remote communities. Investigate potential to add 4,000 to 5,000 MW.
- Add at least 7,500 MW of short- and medium-term storage able to provide multiple grid services.
- For long-term or seasonal swings in demand, options include one or more of:
- Use surplus clean electricity off-peak to make green hydrogen using 15,000 MW of hydrogen electrolysers. Store it to burn to make electricity when required in 15,000 MW of combined-cycle generation.
- Negotiate to buy and/or exchange power with Quebec, if both power and transmission are available at a reasonable price.
- Keep a small amount of fossil gas generation equipment available for extreme conditions.
- Use surplus clean power for storage, (including as hydrogen,) and to make green hydrogen for hard-to-abate sectors such as long distance transport and industrial processes.
Most of the new renewable power is likely to come from doubling renewable energy and storage by 2025, tripling them again by 2030, with a further two-thirds increase by 2040.
Supportive policies will include:
- A robust process for community consultation and benefit sharing.
- A right to connect renewable power generation to the grid and requiring utilities to make it quick and easy to do so.
- Virtual net metering (the right to offset one’s own electricity consumption by generating renewable power off-site).
- Encouraging renewable energy co-operatives.
- Grants and loans so that vulnerable communities can own their own local renewable energy supply, especially remote and Indigenous communities that are currently diesel dependent.
- A bonus for power fed into the grid at times of peak demand.
- Increase resilience by installing solar as close as possible to where it is needed, especially where the panels provide other benefits, such as shade.
Establish market structures to pay for:
- Commercial scale renewable electricity.
- Low-carbon distributed energy resources, including energy storage and other grid services.
- Green hydrogen production, synfuel production and other uses of surplus renewable electricity.
Explore financing options to:
- Allow businesses, individuals and low-income communities to invest in clean energy and energy efficiency in their communities.
- Facilitate equitable access to renewable energy across the province.
- Start now to work with Indigenous communities to plan, site, finance, build and own the about 20,000 MW of electricity transmission lines that Ontario will need, and to learn how to share the resulting benefits.
Clean up Ontario’s electricity supply
- Eliminate fossil fuels from electricity generation the fastest way compatible with our fair share carbon budget, aiming to phase out fossil gas by 2030:
- Ensure that 100% of electricity related GHG emissions are charged the full carbon price.
- Provide grid connections or zero-emission renewable energy systems to replace diesel in remote First Nations communities, e.g. through renewable energy microgrids, storage, and biomass.
- Allow the IESO to work with the Ontario Energy Board to achieve peak demand reductions from tools such as pricing and conservation.
- Re-establish long-term energy planning with meaningful public participation, both provincially and at the community level.
- Revise the mandate of the Ontario Energy Board to include:
- Rapid electrification of building, heating, and transportation.
- Maximizing conservation.
- Smoothing down daily and weekly electricity demand peaks.
- Long-term electric utility resilience, reversing the current bias towards short-term penny-pinching that makes utilities inflexible and brittle.
- Opportunities to repurpose gas pipelines and generation facilities for green hydrogen.
- Don’t build new uranium mines or nuclear plants that add to our huge pile of dangerous nuclear waste that has already been in “temporary” storage for 50 years.
- Clean up regulations that impede the green transition.
- Shut down the aged Pickering Nuclear Plant, as scheduled, without further extensions.
- Consider shutting its units down earlier if continued operation is unsafe, e.g. due to pressure tube deterioration.
Getting fossil gas out of heating buildings will be a challenge, but one that has already been largely achieved in places like Sweden.
It will require maximum practicable energy efficiency improvements in both new and existing buildings, plus replacing virtually all fossil fuel heating with zero-carbon heat. This work will support new businesses and create more jobs. Sources of zero-carbon heat will vary by location, but will include:
- Electrification, with air- or ground-source heat pumps or solar PV.
- Scavenging waste heat or cold from groundwater, sewage, industrial processes, or cooling systems.
- Direct solar heat; and
- Biomass, especially in rural areas.
Ontario Greens’ key policies for achieving zero-carbon energy in buildings will include the top priorities set out in clean, comfortable buildings to live and work in, as well as:
Low-energy buildings cost less to operate, will reduce electricity requirements, and will allow residents to shelter in place during extreme events.
Ontario Greens will:
- Triple public and private investment in retrofitting existing buildings so that 40% of existing homes and workplaces reach net-zero (including renewable energy) by 2030 and 100% by 2045. Supportive policies will include:
- Build awareness with mandatory disclosure of energy and water use, compared to benchmarks:
- Annually for multi-unit and commercial/ industrial buildings.
- On sale, lease or mortgage renewal for single family homes.
- Require energy audits and regular retro-commissioning of multi-unit buildings.
- Incent and support retrofits, creating jobs and reducing the underground economy, with an Energy Efficient Home Renovation Tax Credit.
- Establish end-to-end retrofit support to help building owners navigate the process, to obtain funding, and to provide unbiased information about the best options and what they should cost.
- Build awareness with mandatory disclosure of energy and water use, compared to benchmarks:
- Support research and training in re-cladding existing buildings.
- Remove regulatory obstacles to mass timber construction using FSC-certified wood.
- Reduce costs through bulk purchases of Cold Climate Ground- and Air-source Heat Pumps.
- Ramp up the capital available to home and building owners for net-zero retrofits.
- Make heat pumps available for consumers with no money down, zero- interest financing, to be repaid through utility bill savings or property tax.
- Attract private investment into municipal and commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy programs (PACE, also called Local Improvement Charges or LIC) with seed capital and a provincial loan-loss guarantee.
- Provide net-zero retrofit grants for non-profit housing societies, co-ops and low-income households, (through efficiency and heat pumps,) to keep their energy consumption, (and therefore energy costs,) low and tie the repayments to savings.
- Exempt deep building retrofit financing from municipal debt ceilings.
- Provide direct retrofit incentives geared to income.
- By 2025, stop new gas hookups and new fossil fuel infrastructure.
- By 2025, ban sale or installation of new or used fossil fuel combustion equipment (e.g. furnaces, boilers, stoves, water heaters, small motors) when non-fossil alternatives are available.
- Incent low-carbon district heating and cooling systems, including ground-source heat pumps under laneways and green space.
- Stop the free ride for gas companies. Ensure that gas companies pay the full carbon price on their entire climate impact, including upstream leaks, recognizing that leaks of unburned methane do 86 times more climate damage than carbon dioxide over the next 20 years.
- Direct the Ontario Energy Board to hold a public hearing on how to adjust energy regulation for the green transition, including:
- The role the gas utilities should play in electrification of buildings and transport;
- How to encourage shared local ownership of renewable energy and storage;
- Which gas assets should be converted to hydrogen, by whom and when; and
- Amortizing fossil gas infrastructure (e.g. pipelines) by 2040.
- Restore habitats, cool buildings, and clean water by fixing the building code so that by 2030 all new buildings and renovations are bird-safe and have native plants or food plants on the roof, wall or grounds.
- Reduce heat gain from around buildings, and therefore reduce air conditioning demand, with tree-lined streets and greenspace.
- Allocate at least 15% of infrastructure spending to nature-based climate solutions (natural ecosystem features and materials such as rivers, native plants, soil, etc.), e.g. the Lower Don Revitalization Project.