By eliminating coal-fired electricity generation and replacing it with cleaner sources of energy such as nuclear, hydroelectric, and other renewables, Ontario has decreased electricity sector emissions by approximately 80 percent since 2003 and thanks to the low carbon platform provided by nuclear and hydroelectricity, 90 percent of the electricity generated in Ontario is now greenhouse gas (GHG) free.

Ontario has developed the largest nuclear generating capacity in Canada, attracting billions of dollars in private sector investment and generating more than 42,000 jobs in the process. The introduction of the Green Energy Act in 2009 and the resulting fastest growing clean tech sector in Canada have established Ontario as a North American leader in the development, use, and manufacturing of renewable energy technologies.

“Having a vibrant energy sector is crucial for the Ontario economy,” says Dr. John Luxat, Chairman, International Nuclear Energy Academy. “Not only does it create expertise and employment, it is a key component of maintaining successful manufacturing and natural resource industries.”

One part of the Ontario energy sector that has long been a source of specialized employment, considerable innovation, and valuable exports is the nuclear industry. Ontario’s well-developed nuclear supply chain, a result of the province’s world-leading expertise in nuclear power generation, is now comprised of more than 180 companies supporting a work force of approximately 60,000, including highly skilled people in plant operation and support, manufacturing, and nuclear refurbishment.

Nuclear is the backbone of our electricity system

Aside from creating an eco-system of nuclear expertise that provides good jobs and strong exports for the province, Ontario’s three nuclear plants generated almost 60 percent of the province’s electricity in 2015. With the investment of multi-billion dollar refurbishments of Ontario’s nuclear plants, the infrastructure in place will help sustain the substantial nuclear energy contribution to the province for decades to come.

“Ideally nuclear power would be used to generate between 60 and 80 percent of Ontario’s power needs,” says Dr. Luxat. “The province’s energy supply needs to be both robust and resilient, and nuclear is one of the most resilient forms of energy available, as it is not subject to external environmental factors.”

According to information provided by the Ministry of Energy, the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station refurbishment will make up to 23,000 jobs possible annually and the refurbishment and continued operation of Darlington up to 2055 will increase employment across the province by an average of 14,200 jobs annually. The refurbishments will also further strengthen the foundation for Ontario’s nuclear suppliers to grow exports of their products and services, while providing a consistent and reliable source of clean power to all Ontarians.

Renewables are also a key piece of Ontario’s energy mix

Nuclear power is supported in Ontario by multiple clean, renewable energy sources — hydroelectric (20%+), wind, solar, and bioenergy — that deliver approximately 30 percent of the province’s current electricity supply. One emerging source of clean and renewable energy is biogas, which is created from organic materials or carbon sources through a biological process referred to as Anaerobic Digestion.

“The sources of biogas can be grouped into five main categories: agriculture, landfills, waste treatment biosolids, and commercial and residential source separated materials, otherwise known as the green bin,” explains Jennifer Green, Executive Director, Canadian Biogas Association.

Biogas produces renewable heat, electricity, and pipeline quality gas that can be stored in the pipeline and used for transportation, household heating, or industrial, commercial, and institutional processes. As a renewable source of methane gas, created when organic matter breaks down in an oxygen-free environment, biogas can be upgraded to Renewable Natural Gas (RNG), which is carbon neutral and interchangeable with conventional natural gas.

Ontario’s commitment to an energy supply mix that leans heavily on nuclear, as well as proven renewables such as hydroelectricity and emerging technologies like biogas provides a clean and reliable electricity system. Investments in the transmission and distribution network, along with standards set and monitored by the Independent Electricity System Operator, ensure system reliability. And with recent investments in refurbishing Ontario’s three nuclear plants and bringing increased hydroelectric generation capacity online, the future looks bright for Ontario’s energy industry.