Stop Buying Dirty U.S. Power on Hot Days: Peak-shaving programs better way to keep the lights on, reduce smog

July 17, 2006

(Toronto) With electricity consumption predicted to reach an all-time high today, environmental organizations said the Ontario government is ignoring the cheapest, easiest, and most environmentally-friendly way to meet electricity demand. Instead of buying power from polluting coal plants to meet peak demand, the organizations want the province to expand Toronto Hydro's PeakSAVER program and pay big electricity users to cut back when the system is under stress. So-called "peak-shaving" programs, which are widely used in the U.S., would reduce air pollution and save consumers hundreds of millions of dollars.

"It's crazy that we are paying up to ten times the usual rate for coal-fired electricity from the U.S., when we could be paying for energy savings in Ontario," said Keith Stewart of WWF-Canada. "The McGuinty government should tell the Ontario Power Authority to spend that money here, helping Ontarians to cut back rather than coal-fired imports from the Ohio valley."

Research commissioned by the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) in 2003 found that peak-shaving programs could reduce peak demand by ten per cent, equivalent to the output of three of Ontario's four remaining coal plants, and that a mere one per cent reduction in peak demand would have saved Ontario consumers $170 million in the previous year.

So far, Toronto Hydro's PeakSAVER program is the only significant demand response program in Ontario. The PeakSAVER program allows Toronto Hydro to remotely throttle back thousands of air conditioners and water heaters across the city, while still ensuring a comfortable environment for the homes and businesses that participate. In many areas in the United States, big users are paid to cut back on their electricity consumption during peak demand periods.

"If every utility in the province, including the provincially-owned Hydro One, matched Toronto Hydro's efforts on the conservation front, we could avoid importing dirty power from the Ohio valley and be on our way to closing our remaining coal plants," said Mark Winfield of the Pembina Institute. "Where are the government and the other utilities on this front?"

"Peak-shaving programs are a proven way to deal with our short term electricity crunch," said Shawn-Patrick Stensil of Greenpeace Canada. "The McGuinty government shouldn't be using this short-term problem as a reason to build new nuclear plants, when they won't produce any electricity for at least the next ten years."

Cutting energy waste, including through peak-shaving, and investing in clean power sources such as wind, water and ultra-efficient gas plants, are the quickest, cheapest and most reliable way to end Ontario's dependence on dirty coal and dangerous, debt-plagued nuclear plants, as laid out in a report released last month by the David Suzuki Foundation, Greenpeace Canada, Ontario Clean Air Alliance, Pembina Institute, Sierra Club of Canada and WWF-Canada.

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For more information:

Keith Stewart, Ph.D., Climate Change Campaign Manager
Tel: 416-489-4567 xt 7257
Cell: 416-985-5936.

Mark Winfield, Ph.D., Director Environmental Governance
The Pembina Institute
Tel: 416-978-3486
Cell: 416-434-8130

Shawn-Patrick Stensil, Energy Campaigner
Greenpeace Canada
416-884-7053 (English/French)


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