Durham Region: “Canada’s clean energy capital” to power EVs
Apr 19, 2023
Invest Durham

Durham already powers Ontario with clean energy, but the EV transition mean the region is poised to add even more assets to the area

Durham Region, situated in southern Ontario, is a ‘power’ cluster for clean, efficient energy in Canada. Photo: Invest Durham

Durham Region already powers Ontario with clean energy, but the transition to EVs mean the region is poised to add even more assets to the area

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This article is Sponsor Content presented by Invest Durham

Durham Region, situated in southern Ontario, is a ‘power’ cluster for clean, efficient energy in Canada.

From key global partners and experienced talent to cutting-edge research and the full spectrum of the energy value chain, the Region’s energy ecosystem is a critical feature of Ontario’s net-zero plans.

But Durham Region is ready to grow its portfolio, especially as Ontario’s demand for electricity rises in tandem with the growing adoption of electric vehicles (EVs).

“We are the clean energy capital of Canada,” says Simon Gill, director at Invest Durham. “Not only is there clean energy generation today, but in Durham we are innovating energy generating technologies of the future.”

Nuclear Engineering Students in front of Computer Screen Projection
Students reviewing images of the Region’s grid system. Photo: Ontario Tech University

There is no doubt that Durham Region’s foothold in the energy sector (alongside a history of automotive innovation stretching back well over 100 years) presents a generational opportunity tied to the transition to EVs.

There is no shortage of competition in the global market for EVs, batteries, power storage and research and development. Durham Region has a complete ecosystem of partners to leverage across these sectors.

OPG and Durham Region

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is the largest energy generator in the province — responsible for about half of the total electricity supply. The corporation’s headquarters is moving to Durham Region.

“It’s remarkable that we have a major local employer so involved and aligned with the area’s overall sustainability goals. It’s a competitive advantage for the businesses here to be in proximity to OPG,” says Dan Ruby, manager of business development and investment from Invest Durham.

In addition to its future corporate offices, Durham is home to several other OPG assets, including: Darlington Nuclear Generating Station and the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station, the Centre For Canadian Nuclear Sustainability, the organization’s innovative X-Lab and soon, Canada’s first Small Modular Reactor (SMR).

The two stations are responsible for supplying more than 35 per cent of Ontario’s electricity — about 6,600 megawatts per year. Ontario’s nuclear energy “helps avoid 80 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. That’s roughly the equivalent of taking 15 million passenger vehicles off the road,” according to Canadian Nuclear Association data.

Small Modular Reactors will make big impact

To meet Ontario’s rapidly growing demand for clean electricity to power EVs and to complement the existing nuclear stations, OPG is working to complete the first grid-scale modular reactor in North America at their Darlington campus in Durham.

BWRX-300 Small Modular Reactor Rendering
A rendering of the small modular reactor proposed for Durham region. Photo: GE Hitachi

SMRs are small-footprint nuclear generators. They are easy to build and compact enough to be suitable for use in small or remote communities. Their outputs range from 1-300 megawatts.

They also offer significant cost-savings compared to full-sized nuclear facilities.

“SMRs are going to enable electrification and EV adoption,” says Ruby. “The innovation that is supporting the transformation of Canada’s transportation and energy sectors is happening in Durham. The region will be a key player in the centre of those spaces.”

OPG’s 300-megawatt SMR (enough power for 300,000 homes) is targeting completion in 2028. It will create more than 2,500 jobs.

Durham is Canada’s clean energy capital

In response to the increased demand from EVs, supply chain manufacturing and zero-emission transportation, Durham Region is going all-in on building its clean energy ecosystem.

And, aside from EV adoption, growing interest from companies wanting to locate their manufacturing supply chain to Canada means more draw on the province’s electrical grids.

“We’re going to need to double or even triple our electrical capacity to support EVs,” notes Ruby.

In addition to OPG, Durham is a Canadian toehold for many leading global companies in the clean energy space.

ABB, Aecom, Siemens, SNC Lavalin, Hubbel, Alythia and Tetra Tech are just a few of the key players currently employing over 10,000 energy workers in Durham.

As well, the region’s three post-secondary institutions are fertile ground for new talent.

Thanks to programs like Ontario Tech University’s nuclear engineering degree — the only accredited program of its kind in Canada — and Durham College’s power engineering and skilled trades programs, the region’s talent pipeline is ready.

Close industry collaboration between local schools and industry over many years has created a strong and growing workforce.

This confluence of factors presents a unique opportunity to join the energy and EV supply chains in Durham Region. The demand placed on Ontario’s grid because of the electrification of transportation means the need for clean energy is only going to grow.

It is expected that Durham’s ecosystem will experience expansion. Investors will benefit from having access to research and development capacity, a robust talent pool, and a collegial atmosphere.

There is a rising energy tide in Durham, and innovative clean energy businesses are rising with it.

“We are excited that Durham Region’s clean energy cluster, made up of innovators-from students to CEOs-have been pulling together to position Durham Region as a global leader in this space,” says Ruby.

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