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The Importance of Energy Supply Diversity

electricitySupply diversity is something we have taken for granted for decades. Ontario started out as supplied purely by hydro-electricity but, over time, has moved to a predominantly nuclear energy based province. In the past, we have provided you with a brief history of Ontario’s power supply. Now I’d like to explain to you why our province has moved from only one source of electricity to utilizing the best of multiple sources.

The supply mix is an extremely important factor which goes in to setting the price of power and ensuring the system’s reliability. Understanding the supply mix is key to understanding your electricity bill. If we were to use only hydro-electricity, we would have much less power in the fall than in the spring, when the melting snow creates water flow across Ontario which ultimately moves through hydroelectric dams. The environment is constantly changing, and Mother Nature can’t always be held accountable for providing our electricity.

Natural gas is another fuel supply which creates electricity, however due to pipeline disruptions, and various other uncontrollable factors, it’s not safe to rely solely on this type of power. In addition, natural gas prices have been extremely volatile from a historic perspective. Accordingly, no jurisdiction wants to invest large amounts of capital and several years to build, only to find that the cost of the fuel has risen 40%, making it uneconomic.

With decades of knowledge and experience, educated stakeholders within the energy industry have concluded that a diverse electricity supply mix is the best option. It helps to balance the volatility in fuel supplied sources like natural gas, oil, or coal. It also greatly increases the reliability of the grid.

According to the Ontario Energy Board, currently, nuclear power is the dominant power source here in Ontario, contributing about 60% to the supply mix. We at Bruce Power provide carbon free, nuclear electricity, in a cost effective and reliable way. Hydro-electricity is the second largest supplier of energy for the province.

Data taken from Ontario Energy Board - http://www.ontarioenergyboard.ca/oeb/_Documents/Regulatory/2013_Supply_Mix_Data.pdf

Data from Ontario Energy Board – http://www.ontarioenergyboard.ca/oeb/_Documents/Regulatory/2013_Supply_Mix_Data.pdf

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If you want to know where Ontario’s energy is coming from at this very moment, visit the real-time tracker powered by the Canadian Nuclear Society.

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Implementing a new source of electricity supply into the mix is a decision which has very long term consequences and requires a thorough vetting process. A recent legislation in the US is forcing coal and some older natural gas generators offline, just like in Ontario.

The questions that follow are:

  • How will the source of power generation be replaced?
  • Will the new source be cost effective?
  • Will the new source be reliable?

Moving forward, Ontario has created a mandate to continue to diversify electricity supply. Recently, the discussion has centered on renewable energy.

With the new focus on sustainability, renewable energy programs are certainly here to stay, especially ‘distributed generation’ and household solar in small quantities.

We also have a significant amount of new large scale solar and wind projects coming online over the next two years. This will certainly drive the total cost of power up due to previously negotiated Feed In Tariff rates earned by renewable energy sources.

The opinion of the public is just as diverse as the actual electricity supply mix, but in my opinion, Ontario has a very reliable and diverse supply mix. It will likely stay that way and, although the costs will continue to go higher, Ontario users can rest assured they will have enough power to meet their needs in the years and decades to come.