As Dalton McGuinty winds down his career as Ontario’s premier, the Liberal government’s promise to end coal-fired energy generation has nearly become a reality.
On January 10, 2013, McGuinty publicly announced in Newmarket, Ontario that southern Ontario’s Nanticoke and Lambton plants will stop burning coal by the end of 2013.
Some 600 employees work at the Nanticoke and Lambton facilities.
These closures would mean the province has shut 17 of 19 coal facilities.
When the McGuinty government was elected into office in 2003, it promised to close the coal plants by the end of 2007. That deadline was first pushed to 2009, then eventually to 2014.
Ontario Power Generation currently operates four coal-burning units at its Nanticoke generating station. Four others have already been shut down.
A coal-burning generator at Atikokan in northwestern Ontario is being converted to burn bio-fuels. The fate of a 300-megawatt coal plant in Thunder Bay, however, remains unclear. Ontario Power Generation had started to convert the plant to burn natural gas, but the project has since been suspended by the province pending a review by the Ontario Power Authority.
In a January 10, 2013 statement, The Society of Energy Professionals criticized McGuinty’s plans. Society VP Joe Fierro said publicly-owned plant operator Ontario Power Generation should convert the facilities to burn natural gas or biomass.
“The electricity generated from these two plants to be shutdown is less than half the price of the average of the other generators,” Fierro said. “This decision will drive rates up for all ratepayers.”
According to the Ministry of Energy, coal accounted for 25 per cent of Ontario’s generation in 2003. In 2011, coal-fired generation made up less than three per cent of Ontario's total electricity generation.