Ontario Goes Coal-Free

By the end of this year, Ontario will be the first jurisdiction in North America to have shut down all its coal plants, making it much healthier to breathe.

Yesterday, the government announced two more large power plants would close by the end of this year, ahead of schedule. At their peak, the Lambton and Nanticoke Generating Stations produced 4,000 megawatts (MW), among the largest in the world. And just a decade ago, Ontario got 25% of its electricity from coal.

Since the province owns the coal plants, they’re obviously much easier to close – no fights necessary with private industry.

"The early closure is a result of Ontario’s strong conservation efforts, a smarter electricity grid and a diverse supply of cleaner energy. Shutting down the last coal plants in Southern Ontario will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save the province $95 million," the government says.

The exit is possible because of Ontario’s aggressive feed-in law, established in 2009, and as a result of its energy efficiency programs, energy demand is declining.

Wind is expected to supply 10% of electricity by 2030, growing from zero in 2003 to over 2,000 MW now. For now, natural gas is substituting the majority of energy that coal provided.

Since Ontario began closing coal plants a decade ago, greenhouse gas emissions have dropped from 40 million tons to 10 million tons, according to the Pembina Institute, and sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions are down 93% and 85% respectively.

Premier Dalton McGuinty also announced the province would add to its Greenbelt for the first time since 2005, when it was created, growing to nearly two million acres of protected land.

"Eliminating dirty coal and protecting green space is part of the McGuinty government’s plan to improve air quality, curb urban sprawl and preserve a healthier environment for future generations," he says.

The province’s Green Energy Act, signed into law in 2003, has also created 28,000 green jobs since 2009 alone, expected to rise to 50,000 total jobs.

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