For those who stick with their local electricity utilities, there is no way to choose where your electricity comes from. But many retail energy suppliers offer ‘green power’ or ‘green energy’ plans, which source some or all of the electricity from renewable sources. These plans usually slightly more expensive than typical plans, but for those who are environmentally conscious, the cost is often worth it.
What is Green Power or Green Energy?
Green energy is electricity that is generated from renewable sources, such as hydroelectric generators, wind, solar, biogas, thermal energy, biomass, and so on. What all of these have in common is that when they are used to generate electricity, finite energy resources are not used. In addition, the energy generation processes involving these sources create little to no pollutants. These two qualities are what distinguish green energy from traditional sources of power, such as coal, oil, and natural gas.
As a side note, nuclear energy is typically not considered a green energy source, but the nature and desirability of this source of energy has been debated for many years.
How is Electricity Generated in Ontario?
According to the Canadian Nuclear Society, at noon on 27 October 2016, the breakdown of commercial electricity production in Ontario was as follows:
- Nuclear: 58.0%
- Hydroelectric: 20.7%
- Natural Gas: 12.8%
- Wind: 7.6%
- Biomass: 0.8%
- Solar: 0.1%
Just under 30% of Ontario’s energy is derived from renewable resources, while double that is produced by nuclear reactors. Only 13% of Ontario’s energy comes from fossil fuels. This extremely low figure is due in large part to Ontario becoming the first jurisdiction in North America to completely eliminate the use of coal as a power source. Despite the fact that Ontario generated a quarter of its energy from coal in 2005, the province completed the process of becoming coal-free when Thunder Bay Generating Station, Ontario’s last coal-powered plant, in April 2014. In November 2015, the provincial government passed legislation permanently banning the use of coal to generate electricity.
Ontario Has Passed Initiatives Encouraging Green Energy Production
In recent years, Ontario has passed a few initiatives to encourage the expansion of green energy production. In 2006 it was the first North American government to pass a feed-in tariff, which pays energy producers for electricity they produce using green sources. In 2009, the province passed the Green Energy Act, which further expanded the feed-in tariff system, and also encourages conservation and the development of green energy-related jobs.
These changes in the Ontario energy industry have given retailers the ability to greatly expand their green energy options, including plans which supply energy from 100% renewable sources to the energy grid. These plans typically work by purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates, which pay for the addition of green energy to the provincial energy supply.