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Ontario should commit to clean energy economy by 2050: government-commissioned panel

TORONTO — A new government-commissioned report says Ontario should commit to achieving a clean energy economy by 2050.

An expert panel says in the report that the province should develop related policies and communicate its vision clearly to the public about a transition to electrification.

The report lays out a series of recommendations to the province, including providing clarity on the role of natural gas that should be aligned with a commitment to clean energy.

The panel also says the province should figure out how to find broad support to switch to clean technology such as electric vehicles, energy storage and heat pumps.

Energy Minister Todd Smith established the panel in 2022.

Smith said he will be working with the energy sector to review the report’s recommendations.

He said the report “provides valuable insights and recommendations for future long-term integrated planning.”

“I am particularly pleased to see that the panel shares our government’s view that natural gas will continue to be an important part of Ontario’s energy mix as we implement our pragmatic plan to invest in and bring online more clean nuclear energy,” Smith wrote in a statement.

The role of natural gas should be the subject of a policy direction from the government that is consistent with a transition to clean energy by 2050, the report said. 

“This policy direction will require thorough technical, policy and regulatory analysis, collaboration among government, sector partners, and provincial agencies and a public engagement process,” said the report, titled Ontario’s Clean Energy Opportunity.

“The outcome should be to manage the system optimization and fuel switching necessary to achieve a clean energy economy at a pace that maintains affordable, reliable and resilient energy service.”

The report, written by the Electrification and Energy Transition Panel and its chair, David Collie, said the transition to clean energy should include analysis of maximizing energy efficiency programs, updating building and construction codes, evaluating decarbonization solutions for natural gas and the consequences of decommissioning natural gas systems.

“Our final report outlines what we believe is a robust and well-informed framework for Ontario’s path toward developing a prosperous clean energy economy,” Collie wrote in a letter to Smith included in the report.

The Independent Electricity System Operator is planning to gradually phase out natural gas generation in Ontario.

The province can eliminate its use of natural gas in the electricity system by 2050, but it will be needed in the interim to maintain reliabiality, the IESO has said.

The electricity operator is set to bring seven new battery storage projects online in the coming years as part of the slow transition away from natural gas.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2024. 

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press