Electricity in Ontario

After teetering on the brink of widespread electricity shortages in the early 2000s, Ontario's grid now looks hale by comparison.
Ontario has added almost 6000 MW of capacity in gas and solar projects since the early 2000s, when it faced an energy crisis. Half of its power comes from nuclear. (iStock)


Avg. price: 12.6¢/kWh (8th-lowest among provinces)

2010 capacity: 33,845 MW

2020 forecast capacity: 36,865 MW

Peak use (2010): 25,075 MW

Cross-border trade: Exports 11,756 gWh (earns $406 million)    

GHG intensity rank: 6th-highest

GHG emissions goal: meet Kyoto targets by 2014 (two years late); 15% below 1990 levels by 2020

Green targets: 50% increase in renewable energy by 2015

After teetering on the brink of widespread electricity shortages in the early 2000s, Ontario's grid now looks hale by comparison. The province has added 4,740 MW of gas-fired generation in the last decade — much of it in the last two years — and 1,085 MW of wind turbines. That more than offset the loss of 1,850 MW of capacity to last year's shutdown of four coal-powered generators in Sarnia and Nanticoke, Ont.

Do you want to know how much you'll be paying for electricity in 2020? Try the provincial cost calculator.

But there are some significant uncertainties ahead for Canada's most nuclear province, where half the electricity comes from splitting atoms.

The recent earthquake in Japan — and subsequent attempts to halt radiation leaks at the Fukushima Daiichi plant — has lead many to reconsider the nuclear  option.

Pickering's six remaining reactors are to be decommissioned by 2020, while four reactors at Darlington and six at Bruce (two others are already underway) will have to be refurbished if they are to generate power past the latter half of the decade.

The first set of refurbishments of two Bruce reactors has been a megaproject debacle and is currently $2 billion over budget and three years late. Add to that the ongoing uncertainty  around the future of federal Crown corporation Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., which builds and services the Candu reactors, and the provincial picture is murky.

The North American power-grid authority's assessment from last fall is that Ontario's "anticipated resources are not sufficient."

The province is filling the gap in part with its ambitious green energy strategy. It hosts North America's largest solar farm near Sarnia and has the most wind generating capacity of any province. It's also the only province with a feed-in-tariff (B.C.'s and Nova Scotia's are in the offing), under which it pays guaranteed prices for 20 years to new wind, solar, biomass, biogas and hydro projects. And the prices have been high enough — 80.2 cents per kilowatt-hour in the case of small-scale rooftop solar  installations — to drum up more than 4,100 applications to provide 16,250 MW worth of new renewable generation.

Ontario will need a lot of that, though ratepayers are already grumbling at the cost. The province plans to shut off its remaining coal generators by 2014 in a move that will massively slash greenhouse-gas emissions, but the price of replacement power and much-needed upgrades to the electricity grid mean the average hydro bill will jump 46 per cent by 2015.