April 6, 2022

By Ian Harvey

Depending on your crystal ball reaching Net Zero by 2050 is either the Holy Grail or a complete nightmare.

You may have noticed your gasoline and natural gas prices jumped April 1 with the Clean Fuel Standard tax increase. It in turn, this tax is driving inflation, making cities like Brampton unaffordable.

As new regulation come in place to force cement and steel manufacturers to emit less using replacement technologies, the price of their products also starts to rise, driving up the cost of hospitals, schools, condos, roads and bridges.

Too many governments, like Brampton, are jumping on the virtue bandwagon without really considering the fiscal impact, not to mention the societal impact.

It’s ironic too since Brampton’s 2019-2024 Energy and Emissions Plan relies in part on natural gas. While the plan seems moderate enough, the strategy depends on funding that is not fully costed. There’s a vague assumption that some other entity will provide the money.

They’ll have to get in line. The concept that transportation, manufacturing, construction and life generally will produce zero carbon emissions or at least negligible emissions in less than 30 years is a vaulted promise which has become politicized to the point of overlooking the basic realities, say critics like former banker and now energy sector analyst Parker Gallant.

The fatal flaw in the equation is that there’s no plan for where the energy to replace fossil fuels will come from other than vague claims of wind and solar, which are almost useless without robust storage – and at this stage – affordable, compact and high energy density batteries just don’t exist other than the laboratory.

First let’s look at the cost impact on a growing city like Brampton.

As it stands the Ontario grid alone cannot meet the demand for electricity if all those political promises of 100% EVs and heating and cooling were to materialize, Gallant says, requiring massive investments in infrastructure over the next 30 years, money which has never been budgeted.

Paul de Berardis, director of building science and innovation at industry group Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCO) says just recently Toronto Council accelerated its net zero plan to 2040, putting pressure on Toronto Hydro to deliver the power required when all those devices come online as mandated. This is being repeated across all municipalities, including Brampton.

“Toronto Hydro is forecasting that there will be a double to three time more demand for electricity in the next 10 years and in order to meet that demand they will need about $10 billion in upgrades, all of which are unfunded at this time.”

Someone, he says, will have to come up with that money but more disconcerting is that the IESO Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), the agency responsible for managing the power system and planning for the province’s future energy needs projects it will cost $27 billion to meet the political direction being imposed with a resulting 60 per cent increase in electricity rates.

The City of Ottawa has also jumped on the bandwagon, he says, with a plan projected to cost $57.4 billion by 2050.

“To put that in perspective those investments are 14.5 times the City’s current annual budget of $3.94 billion,” he says noting the construction opportunity is as massive as the cost, but the pay back is going to hit consumers hard.

“Residents in Ottawa should get ready for electricity prices to more than double every 10 years,” says Gallant.

On the energy generation side, IESO says 20 per cent of the doubling of demand will be driven by EV take up starting in the early 2030s.

Even Natural Gas is under attack by lobby groups like Clean Air Ontario Alliance which contends the IESO is wrong and has convinced 32 municipalities (including Brampton) to pressure the provincial government to phase out electricity generation and rely more on wind and solar, neither of which have ever consistently produced anywhere near the power output they promised and likely never will.

Here’s the issue. The only thing which saves us from black outs are the natural gas generating plants which back up wind and solar and then sit idle when those sources actually produce enough energy.

Incidentally, about 96% of electricity in Ontario is produced from zero-carbon emitting sources: 60% from aging nuclear, 26% from hydroelectricity, 7% from wind, and 2% from solar. The remainder is primarily from natural gas, with some biomass.

Given its role in supporting wind and solar, the question remains why natural gas is being harshly treated with carbon taxes and levies, when the European experience shows it’s a beneficial transitionary energy over coal.

“In Europe with the energy crisis they’ve had to turn to reopening coal plants,” de Berardis says, noting they’d be frozen without natural gas which in Germany is being supplied by an increasing hostile Russia. “Even in Britain which has a less cold climate than say Canada they are turning to wood stoves for heating when it is cold because their heat pumps can’t keep up.”