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Let’s triple wind and solar in Ontario

A lot has changed in the last decade when it comes to renewable energy.

Article written by Angela Bischoff, Ontario Clean Air Alliance

A lot has changed in the last decade when it comes to renewable energy.  

Costs for wind and solar have plummeted. Thanks to exploding worldwide usage, solar and wind are now the lowest cost ways to meet our electricity needs. As Bloomberg Finance noted recently, “in 2004 it took an entire year to install a single gigawatt of solar PV. By 2010, it took the world one month... By 2016, one week. Last year saw single days.”

The same holds true for wind power, a sector that has doubled six times over the same period, and where costs are now (according to Bloomberg) around $0.02/kWh for onshore wind and $0.05/kWh (U.S. $) for offshore – costs that no other source of electricity generation comes anywhere close to meeting.  

While wind and solar supply doubled in G20 countries between 2017 and 2022, Ontario has not added a single kilowatt of solar or wind power to its electricity system in the last five years.

Fortunately, the Ford Government has recently recognized that it cannot continue to ignore these ultra-low-cost sources of power. But its plans for 5,000 megawatts (MW) of new renewable energy (a 30% increase in capacity) are baby steps compared to what is happening abroad.

For instance, according to investment firm Wood Mackenzie, the United States is now in a position to triple its renewable energy capacity in the next 10 years thanks to its ambitious (and well-funded) Inflation Reduction Act. 

There are many reasons to be concerned about Ontario’s modest plan to take advantage of low-cost and climate-friendly wind and solar power.

First, the Ford Government’s plans to increase the use of polluting gas power is a threat to our climate and to our wallets. New gas-fired peaker plants are expensive, high-carbon, polluting, and outdated.

And by spending billions on costly, high-risk nuclear projects, the province is driving UP our electricity costs! The government’s plans to re-build and construct multiple new reactors are shrouded in secrecy when it comes to costs. But a reasonable estimate is that power from new reactors will cost a minimum of three times more than power from wind and solar.

Then there are the missed economic opportunities: A build out of renewable energy capacity – everything from solar panels on roofs to windmills in our Great Lakes – would create jobs throughout the province. This would be a bonanza for communities and a huge opportunity for young workers. It would also put Ontario in a much better position to attract and retain industries looking for low-cost zero-emissions power.

Fortunately, we now have many good storage options for variable renewable power – including stationary and mobile (EV) batteries, thermal storage, and coordination with Quebec’s huge water power system. When the cost of storage is included, wind and solar are still less than half the cost of new nuclear reactors and gas peaker plants.

We must also consider the urgent need for climate solutions. We have been playing with fire when it comes to climate change, and our communities are paying the price: Wildfires leave us choking on smoke. Record floods destroy homes, roads and other infrastructure. Extreme heat and storms lead to illness and injury. Unseasonal temperatures influence the spread of diseases and insect pests.

We simply cannot wait ten to fifteen years for new nuclear reactors to produce power – especially, when we have much simpler and faster solutions: solar and wind projects that can be built in months.

It’s time for Ontario to wake up and smell the now-burning coffee. Climate change is a real threat to our homes and communities, while solar and wind offer tremendous new economic opportunities. 

Let’s triple wind and solar in Ontario by 2035 – lowering energy bills, creating good jobs, and securing a better future for our kids.  

Add your voice to the call to triple wind and solar!