Ontario Increasing Reliance on Fossil Gas for Electricity, Expanding Portlands Facility

Photo: Mike Marrah

By David Gray-Donald

Thirty-four municipalities in Ontario, including Toronto, have passed motions opposing the expansion of fossil gas-fired electricity in the province.

That isn’t stopping the PC government from trying to override them.

In the midst of the climate crisis, many energy experts in Ontario are encouraging investments in energy efficiency, peak electricity demand management, and phasing out fossil fuel use. Experts are in favour of wind and solar (which are less costly than gas) paired with storage options such as hydro and, increasingly, batteries.

However, the Ford government’s plan is to increase fossil fuel use and prolong the use of nuclear power.

They are planning to build new gas-fired power plants in Windsor and St.Clair Township, and to expand existing gas-fired facilities in several places, including on Toronto’s eastern waterfront at the Portlands plant.

Around 400 health professionals signed a letter written by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment this spring. The letter opposes the plan for heightened reliance on gas plants, saying it risks “accelerating the climate crisis and contributing to deadly air pollution.”

In May, Toronto City Council approved a motion opposing the Portlands facility expansion. In June, council asked the Government of Canada to intervene by issuing Clean Electricity Regulations to stop the project.

However, those federal regulations won’t go into effect until 2025 and will apply only to new projects, meaning they would not apply to the Portlands expansion and other gas plants infrastructure that will be built by then.

Alongside city council, environmental groups such as the Ontario Clean Air Alliance are encouraging people to push the federal government to enact regulations immediately, not in two years.

This article appears in the Sept/Oct 2023 issue.