The Ontario Clean Air Alliance turned its back on gas-fired power plants

An article in the Toronto Star back on August 30, 2020 written by Angela Bischoff of the OCAA was headlined:  “We need to phase out Ontario’s gas-fired power plants, not ramp them up”. That signaled the OCAA had turned it’s back on some of its former funders. The OCAA is a “charity” and if one looks back to an article penned in August 2012 it noted “OCAA disclose in their filing that private funding (over $750 per annum) comes from; Union Gas, European Power Systems (gas equipment), Northland Power (wind developer), Sky Generation (wind developer), Enbridge Gas”!  At that time both Union Gas and Enbridge Gas were funding OCAA’s “charitable” (sarcasm intended) endeavours which were focused on: eliminating “coal and nuclear generation while favouring wind, solar and gas generation.”  The times have apparently changed!

OCAA’s Plan

The article in the Toronto Star states: “Importing low cost power from Quebec is also a sensible alternative. Our neighbours have plenty of power to spare—in fact, they have been dumping it on spot markets in the U.S. for years now.”  The article goes on to make other specious claims but they have been somewhat successful as noted recently having convinced Kingston’s City Council to pass a motion that tells the Province to shut down “fossil fuel generation”.  OCAA’s website now claims they have convinced 13 municipalities* to pass a similar motion claiming Ontario can import clean hydro from Quebec. The next municipality they have focused on is Toronto, where Toronto City Councillors Jennifer McKelvie and Mike Layton will urge Toronto City Council to adopt a motion calling for the phase-out of gas-fired electricity in Ontario “as soon as possible.”

Had Angela Bischoff, her boss, Jack Gibbons, or any of the councillors in those 13 municipalities bothered to search for some facts they may have discovered Hydro Quebec’s peak demand occurs in the winter and the bulk of what they export to the US and the Maritimes is contracted.  The foregoing is relatively easy to find as Hydro Quebec’s financial reports disclose it.

Quebec’s Peak Electricity Demand

 From Hydro Quebec’s financial report for the 1st quarter of 2020: “Hydro-Québec’s quarterly results are not necessarily indicative of results for the year on account of seasonal temperature fluctuations. Because of higher electricity demand during winter months, revenue from electricity sales in Québec is higher during the first and fourth quarters.”

A somewhat dated (2012) report from Statistics Canada states: “Sixty-one percent of households in Quebec used electric baseboard heating systems,” and provides insight on why Ontario would be unable to count on an adequate supply of electricity from Quebec during our winters. Bischoff and Gibbons should stop telling lies!

Again, looking at Hydro Quebec’s 2019 annual report amplifies the foregoing and indicates Hydro Quebec encourages reductions in use during the winter by providing “two new rate offerings for Rate D residential and farm customers and Rate G business customers Winter Credit Option, which gives customers a credit if they reduce their electricity use during peak demand events.”  They refer to it as “Dynamic pricing” and go so far as to say it is: “our way of thanking customers for helping us reduce electricity demand during peak periods.”

With those facts in hand, those OCAA spokespeople shouting; “we need to phase out gas-plants” and count on electricity supplied by wind, solar or “cheap hydro” from Quebec better install a household gas generator. They and those naïve councillors will not like it when Ontario experiences those rolling black-outs that will occur should the Ontario Minister of Energy actually listen to them.

*Kitchener, Windsor, St. Catharines, Burlington, Hamilton, Guelph, Cobourg, Halton Hills, King, Woolwich, Selwyn, Kingston and Waterloo.

Author: parkergallantenergyperspectivesblog

Retired international banker.

7 thoughts on “The Ontario Clean Air Alliance turned its back on gas-fired power plants”

  1. Here is a quote from Gibbons back in 2006 when the Portland Energy Centre was in the proposal stage: “”Some people are opposed to a power plant (of any kind) in Toronto — period,” said Jack Gibbons, chair of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance. However, “some people are not fully aware how clean the Portlands Energy Centre will be.”

    How time have changed eh, Jack!


  2. Mr. Gallant:

    I think you make the same mistake as many people do with regards to Hydro-Québec. It’s seen as the big-monolithic behemoth. It’s not that simple.

    The fact that the Quebec control area has a strong peak in winter, because 80% of Quebec homes use baseboard heating contributing to a 11,000 MW load for this purpose at peak hour is mostly a problem for the transmission (HQT) and distribution (HQD) units of the company. The grids have to be built accordingly and the LSE has to deliver power when needed.

    But it has no bearing on whether Hydro-Québec Production (HQP), the unregulated merchant generator arm of the company has enough power to fulfill its contract obligations to neighboring networks.

    HQP’s obligation to the Quebec customers is to provide the so-called “heritage pool” of 165 TWh/year of energy + ancillary services (for a total of 178.9 TWh/year, basically the average yearly output of the generation built before the year 2000) to the HQD division at a set price ($27.90/MWh, indexed to CPI since 2014). If HQD need more, it has to issue RFPs, mostly for wind projects (3,800 MW), biomass (345 MW) and small hydro.

    The remainder of HQP’s production (from the 5,000 MW added in the past 20 years), is sold partly in Quebec through RFPs (a 250 MW base and 350 MW cyclable (50% of hours) and a deal to firm up wind up to 40% CF in the winter), but tyhey sell mostly to other control areas. They have signed long-term deals (20 years) with Cornwall, Vermont, New Brunswick, with new deals with Maine and Massachusetts and (maybe) New York City. The remainder is sold on the short-term markets in the 4 adjacent control areas.

    Currently, the limiting factor is not generating capacity (reservoirs are full and HQ spills every year) but transmission availability.

    In a nutshell, if François Legault ever shows up again in Toronto to make a deal, he can back it up better than, say, his Newfoundland counterpart.


    1. Mr Boucher, Based on my knowledge and that of several of my contacts inside the Ontario electricity sector Quebec is not in any position to fill the gaps in Ontario in the winter. Ontario’s current agreement with QH is for us to provide power to Quebec in the winter when needed and QH to provide power to Ontario in the summer when needed. Were you aware QH would (and may still) use Ontario’s transmission lines to wheel power through Ontario which they sell to upper NY state during the summer months? I was aware Cornwall gets its power from QH and has for decades and was also aware of the long-term contracts with many states in the Eastern US as well some recent agreements to supply the Maritimes.

      In “summary”, QH would be unable to guarantee power would be available to Ontario during the winter but will happily sell their surplus power on a “spot” basis to whomever will purchase it when that occurs. Ontario needs secure power as we have had peak demand hours in the winter in the not too distant past.


  3. Well it got to Toronto City Council and they deferred it: “City Council considered this item on February 2, 2021 and postponed its consideration to a later date. Consult the text of the decision for further information on the deferral.”

    But it will come back once the following questions are answered:

    “Motions (City Council)
    1 – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong (Final)
    1. City Council request the City Manager to report to the Executive Committee on the gas-fire-generated electricity used by the City of Toronto, and its agencies and corporations, and on a plan, including financial impacts, of phasing out the use of gas-fire-generated electricity.
    2. City Council request the City Manager to report to the Executive Committee on the extra costs that will appear on taxpayers electricity bills as a result of the phase out of gas-fire-generated electricity.
    3. City Consult request the City Manager to consult with Toronto Hydro and The Ontario Electrical Association on the impacts of phasing out the use of gas-fire generated electricity and report back to Council through the Executive Committee.
    Motion to Waive Referral (Carried)
    Speaker Nunziata advised Council that the provisions of Chapter 27, Council Procedures, require that Motion MM28.21 be referred to the Executive Committee. A two-thirds vote of the Council Members present is required to waive referral.”


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