Shannon Joseph highlights the importance of Natural Gas in Ontario’s energy future as Ottawa continues to Revise Approach on Electricity

“The Agenda with Steve Paikin” recently hosted a panel on the important role of natural gas in Ontario’s energy future. ESF Chair, Shannon Joseph, along with representatives from Enbridge Gas, Clean Energy Canada, and Environmental Defence were a part of this important discussion.

A key takeaway from the discussion in this episode was the surprising agreement among all panelists that natural gas is important and will continue to play a part in Ontario’s energy future. This is significant when it comes to conversations regarding the future of energy in Canada.

Natural gas delivers 30% of the end-use energy in Ontario today, which includes household and industrial applications. “Natural gas provides Canadians and Ontarians with reliable and affordable access to energy to heat their homes and run their businesses and communities. It plays and will continue to play an important role in ensuring safety, affordability, and reliability of the energy system for Ontarians,” said Shannon Joseph.

As electrification continues to be a popular solution for some, Shannon points out that electrification means more electricity demand and the need for new generation, transmission, and distribution systems. Replacing what natural gas delivers to Ontario would require an additional 1.7 times of our current system capacity. This will not be cheap or easy.  

"When you have to triple your electricity system, the cost of all the new supply, new transmission is all getting passed on to the consumer. So, the idea that Canada is going to increase its population, attract new industries, electrify transportation, and somehow electricity is going to be cheaper and save people money, doesn't make sense," she added.

Environment and Climate Change Canada has gotten the message that the affordability and reliability implications of their policies matter.

Minister of Environment and Climate Change during a news conference on Friday May 26, 2023 in Ottawa.
Picture Credits: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld 

On February 16, 2024, it announced revisions to the proposed Clean Electricity Regulations (CER) that walk back truly unworkable elements that presented significant challenges to electricity system safety, reliability, and affordability. According to feedback from Canada’s electricity system operators in Electricity Canada's submission to the government, the regulation would have severely constrained the use of natural gas in particular, which currently plays a role in the reliability and safety of our electricity systems for which there is no existing substitute

Joseph adds, “Electricity Canada has said there is no technology that would be able to have the same function and characteristics that natural gas delivers in terms of system stability, performance, and reliability, and as a backstop to (renewables) integration. There's no battery that will replace what gas does when it's -30 or -40.”

Canada’s families, communities and businesses need our energy systems to deliver on many things in addition to emissions reduction. It is essential for Canadians to continue a meaningful dialogue around the future of energy, grounded in regional realities, to ensure our regulations not only meet our environmental objectives but also safeguard the reliability of our electricity supply into the future.