The Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE) has conducted an electricity system simulation and economic analysis to determine what retail electricity rates will be in Ontario to achieve net zero for the electricity system by 2035.

The analysis added more capacity using different generation technologies to the existing zero-emission installed capacity in 2021 to serve the 2035 high-load demand scenario forecasted by the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO). The analysis also added sufficient energy storage to make sure the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) reliability and resiliency standards are met. NERC standards are mandatory for any power system that is connected to the North American power grid.

Ontario is connected to five other power systems in Quebec, New York, Michigan, Minnesota, and Manitoba. It’s the NERC standards that impose additional costs, especially for supply mixes that use weather-dependent generation.

The OSPE analysis shows that expanding our current electricity system capacity with too many intermittent renewable generation technologies will result in significantly higher retail electricity costs.  The worst choice, from a cost perspective, is to add exclusively only solar photovoltaic (PV) with battery energy storage systems providing the backup.  If we choose only more solar PV with storage, retail electricity rates will need to more than double in today’s dollars.

The best choice, from a cost perspective, is to add more nuclear with pumped hydroelectric storage providing some peaking capability, according to OSPE. The engineers also estimate that if the province selects only more nuclear with storage, in today’s dollars 2035 retail electricity costs will only be about 20 per cent higher than today.

Because the existing zero-emission capacity installed in 2021 was used as a base above which additional generating capacity was added to serve the 2035 demand, all the supply mix simulations contain some hydroelectric, nuclear, wind turbine, solar PV, storage, and combustion turbines.  The combustion turbines are existing natural gas plants that will be fueled by renewable natural gas (RNG) for all net-zero supply mixes. The combustion turbines are retained to provide system reserve and only operate when they are required to run for reliability or resiliency purposes (i.e., following equipment failures or during unexpected high demand during severe weather events). If combustion turbines using RNG had not been used in the analysis, the projected electricity costs would have been even higher than noted above to achieve both net-zero emissions and the NERC reliability and resiliency standards.

Readers who want additional information for the 10 supply mixes that were analyzed can view OSPE’s Electricity Supply Mix Study at:

Featured image credit: Pickering Power Plant, OPG.

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