Ontario Power Generation released its second-quarter earnings on Friday and, little surprise, the province’s largest power generator saw its output drop by 19 per cent compared to a year earlier. A similar plunge was seen in the first quarter. Some of this drop has to do with conservation, good weather, and increased supply from private supplier of wind and gas-fired generation, but a big chunk has to do with the recession and its impact on a manufacturing-heavy province like Ontario.
But there is a silver lining. Ontario Power Generation saw its fossil-fuel generation, mostly coal, fall by a whopping two-thirds. It means that during the second quarter 91 per cent of electricity generated by OPG was free of greenhouse gases and other smog-causing emissions, thanks to our hydroelectric and nuclear fleet.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could hold the line on emissions as the economy recovers? That would happen if Premier Dalton McGuinty makes good on his promise to eliminate all coal-fired generation in the province by 2014 (actually, I believe the original target was 2007, then 2009, so we’re on promise No. 3). Rumour is McGuinty may attempt to beat the 2014 deadline just in time for the next election, and he may have a shot given the plunge in demand caused by the recession. But to do it, he’ll also need to convert some coal units so they can burn biomass, and have to push even harder on conservation, and he’ll need to move quickly to approve wind and hydroelectric projects in the province. Nuclear is not part of this equation, because any new plants or refurbishment projects wouldn’t be completed in time.
The next few years should be very interesting.