Windsor City Council Votes to Add Natural Gas Electrical Generating Capacity
At the January 16 meeting of Windsor Ontario’s City Council, an important agenda item discussed was a request by Capital Power to support its application to the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) to add natural gas turbines, called peaking fired units, for gas-powered electrical generation and battery storage capacity at their East Windsor Cogeneration facility. Capital Power owns and operates electrical generating facilities in Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, and in various states in the United States.
The motion comes following Ontario Energy Minister, Todd Smith, directing the IESO to secure 2,500 megawatts of energy storage along with 1,500 megawatts of new electricity generating natural gas capacity between 2025 and 2027 to meet a projected shortfall of electricity. The projected shortfall is in fact a result of demands by large multinationals for a secure supply of electricity for mining, agriculture and electric battery production. The increased demand is happening at the same time as the retiring of the Pickering nuclear power plant as well as the refurbishment of 10 of the 18 reactors at the Darlington and Bruce Nuclear Generating Stations, refurbishments that began in 2016.
The natural gas plant is called a “peaker plant”, which is meant to quickly ramp up and down to meet changes in demand within the electrical grid and is seen as a short-term solution to ensuring that the electricity required by these industries to make their profits is secure.
In its submission to the council, the city’s administration referred to a report of a study done by the IESO, that was released in October 2021, stating: “The IESO acknowledges that without limited amount of new natural gas in the near term, the province would be reliant on emergency actions such as conservation appeals and rotating blackouts to stabilize the grid.” This is really to hide that the increased demand for a secure supply of electricity by those who will profit from it has led to a situation where emergency measures are being taken to expand electricity generation by handing out secured contracts to private enterprises for its production.
A concern being raised by many is that the push to ramp up production will violate the City of Windsor’s commitment to reducing its carbon emissions, which it pledged to do in 2019. At that time, the City of Windsor passed a motion declaring a climate emergency and committed to definite carbon emission reduction targets. It is estimated this new project would increase carbon emissions above the targets set, by 2-4 %.
The argument put forward by city administration for supporting the proposal is that “to achieve continued economic development and success, it is imperative that NextStar Energy and future developments have confidence in a sufficient and sustainable power supply.” NextStar Energy is the recently announced electric battery plant project from LG and Stellantis (formerly Chrysler) being publically financed with billions in subsidies from the Ontario and Federal governments as well as millions from the municipal government. They also note that increased demand for electricity from greenhouse operations in Essex County mean that a secure supply of electricity is vital.
Another important aspect was that city’s administration acknowledged that if a future federal government moved towards net-zero emissions for the electrical sector resulting in the facility being shut, Capital Power would still be paid monthly payments. If demand was reduced by 25% “This may result in electricity ratepayers continuing to pay for stranded assets.” Capital Power’s East Windsor Cogeneration facility is “fully contracted with the Ontario Independent Electricity System Operator until 2029.”
The motion to support the development passed by a vote of 8-2. The passage of the motion means that the city will send a letter of support to the IESO, which will contribute to their approval of the project.
(With files from: City of Windsor Council Reports 161/2022 & 222/2022, capitalpower.com)