The company’s first-ever climate change plan sets out an ambitious blueprint for a net-zero future with the electrification of transportation as a key pillar
This article is presented by OPG
Ontario Power Generation, the organization responsible for producing half of Ontario’s electricity, has set out an ambitious blueprint to become a net-zero carbon company by 2040.
That objective is the centrepiece of OPG’s first-ever climate change plan, released in late November. In it, the company pledges to reducing carbon emissions while boosting the economy to help Ontario achieve a brighter future for current residents and generations to come.
“We started with a simple question, ‘What can we do to make tomorrow better?’ Climate change is not the future, it’s the present, and its consequences are already being felt,” says Ken Hartwick, president and CEO of OPG.
The climate change plan establishes two major goals: that OPG becomes a net-zero carbon company by 2040 and that it helps achieve net-zero carbon economies by 2050 in the markets where it operates. OPG plans to achieve the first by investing and implementing CO2 reductions and offsets, and the second by advancing new clean technologies and solutions.
Decades of work
The plan builds on OPG’s decades of work to reduce its carbon footprint. In 2005, OPG emitted 27 million tonnes (Mt) of carbon dioxide on an annual basis. Between 2014 and 2019, the company emitted just 0.5 Mt. Enabling that dramatic gain was OPG’s move to stop burning coal for electricity in 2014 — the world’s single largest climate change action to date.
Since then, OPG has continued to demonstrate clean power leadership with the Darlington Refurbishment project, the expansion of its hydro generating fleet, and partnerships like the Gull Bay micro grid and Nanticoke Solar facility.
Now, Hartwick says, OPG is ready to do more.
“The steps we’re taking to address climate change today must improve the lives of everyone and make our communities stronger while creating new jobs and nurturing new industries,” Hartwick says.
“Our new climate change plan sets ambitious goals that will guide our promise to be a catalyst for efficient, economy-wide decarbonization.”
While a lot can change in the next 20 years, OPG has many innovative tools in its toolbox today to help achieve the plan’s two main objectives. These include:
- Development of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), the next generation in nuclear technology
- Nuclear refurbishment
- Electrification of the transportation sector through initiatives like the Ivy Charging Network, an OPG-Hydro One partnership that will have more than 70 sites by the end of 2021
- Continued investment in OPG’s hydro generation
- Utilizing renewables and storage, and emerging carbon capture technologies
- Nature-based solutions such as tree planting
- Operating natural gas plants to support intermittent renewables and provide stability to the electricity system
Electrification of transportation a key step
A further key lies in OPG’s ability to leverage Ontario’s clean grid to reduce carbon emissions in other higher-emitting sectors, in particular transportation.
In 2018, the electricity sector accounted for only 2 per cent of Ontario’s total carbon emissions. Compared to other progressive global jurisdictions from a carbon intensity perspective, Ontario ranks among the best.
Given that the transportation sector is now the province’s largest source of carbon emissions, at more than 30 per cent, it is OPG’s aim to significantly reduce those emissions by powering more cars, trucks, trains, boats and buses with electricity rather than gas or diesel.
This action includes transitioning OPG’s own vehicle fleet to electric and, potentially, hydrogen in long-haul applications, as well as supporting other companies and organizations via the Ivy Charging Network and its commercial fleet charging services. For example, OPG is partnering with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation to electrify the province’s Amherst and Wolfe Island ferries. Another partnership with the Toronto Transit Commission will provide charging infrastructure to electrify their bus fleet and help deliver North America’s largest transit electrification project.
Putting principles into action
In these and other engagements, OPG’s quest for net-zero is to be guided by several principles. Specifically, a commitment to adapt to new technologies and changing policies, to be as transparent as possible, follow scientific evidence, be willing to evolve, respect customers, engage Indigenous communities, and be bold in its approach.
The plan also embraces a four-step series of actions to address the coming challenges on different fronts as necessary. These are:
- To mitigate by reducing carbon emissions from OPG’s operations and the markets where it operates
- To adapt by ensuring operations are resilient to the impacts of climate change
- To innovate by developing and deploying new clean technologies
- To lead by working with others on decarbonization efforts and sharing lessons with the world
The new plan acknowledges the road to net-zero won’t always be straight. It also assumes future policy and legislation changes that will support economy-wide decarbonization, as well as advancements in clean technologies and the establishment of an offset carbon credit market, all of which will help OPG reach its targets.
“Our goals won’t be easy to achieve. The way forward won’t always be clear. But we won’t let that lack of perfect clarity stop us from taking action now,” Hartwick says. “We hope to make our province proud as we bring our made-in-Ontario experience, our ingenuity, and our commitment to the world.”
Watch the full virtual launch of OPG’s Climate Change Plan on the video below.