Natural gas, renewable energy, nuclear power and conservation would be the "cornerstones" of Ontario's electricity future, according to an ambitious electricity supply plan unveiled by the province's grid operator and energy regulator late last month.

The Ontario Power Authority (OPA), which presented the Integrated Power System Plan (IPSP) with the province's energy regulator, the Ontario Energy Board (OEB), estimated the total cost to implement the plan at C$60 billion. The IPSP, which now moves to public hearings, is designed as a road map to build renewable energy, rebuild nuclear capacity, phase out coal-fired generation and upgrade the transmission system over the next 20 years.

The IPSP calls for 45% of Ontario's electricity supply to be provided by conservation and renewable sources by 2025, along with 8% from natural gas and 47% from nuclear power.

Investments contemplated in the plan would result in real cost-to-customer increases of 15-20%, the OPA noted. Conservation would be the first priority, and OPA estimated it would cost about C$10 billion to reduce 6,300 MW of total peak demand through conservation by 2025. About C$15.4 billion of the total cost would be spent on renewables, C$26.5 billion on nuclear, C$3.6 billion on natural gas and C$4 billion on transmission. About 75% (C$3 billion) of the transmission budget would be spent on enhancements to facilitate renewable resources.

The 4,000-page action plan, which took two years to complete, is designed to:

"While this plan is the product of extensive consultations and planning expert advice, it has truly benefited from the insights of Ontarians from across the province," said Amir Shalaby, OPA Vice President, Power System Planning. "For two years we have attempted to build a shared understanding of our electricity challenges and options. The plan, and the OEB review and approval process, will help Ontario define its choices further."

Ontario also would build "almost as much" generating capacity over the next 20 years as there is in the province today. The plan would be updated every three years to "adapt to the evolving demand for electricity and opportunities or new technologies," OPA stated. The province's grid operator received more than 161 written submissions and heard the views of more than 2,200 Ontarians while the project was put together. The OEB's regulatory hearings, which will evaluate the IPSP's adherence to government policy direction and its economic prudence, will offer more opportunities for public input.

Prudence and flexibility were two key planning principles, according to Shalaby. The final plan "must be founded on prudence -- cost effectiveness and feasibility of options," he said. "It must also have flexibility -- the ability to respond and adapt to what actually happens and changes in our assessment of the future."

The entire IPSP may be viewed at www.powerauthority.on.ca.

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