Mediaplanet: What is an energy mix, and why is it important for Ontario’s energy system?

Bob Huggard: An energy mix refers to the different types of fuels that are used to produce electricity in a particular jurisdiction — such as natural gas, nuclear, hydro, wind, solar, or biomass. The energy mix we have as a province is important because it impacts everything from the price of electricity to the environmental impact of our energy system. Having a diverse energy mix makes the system stronger and more reliable.  Like a good stock portfolio, diversity is a strength when considering energy mix.

MP: What can consumers do to have a positive impact on Ontario’s energy grid?

BH: Conservation is one of the easiest things consumers can do to have a positive impact on both the energy grid and their bottom line. Conservation can take many forms: retrofitting your homes so that they use less energy, upgrading your appliances to more efficient models, and shifting your electricity usage to off-peak periods — for example, by using a programmable thermostat to reduce your usage during the peak hours of the day. Ontario’s electricity distributors will soon be offering new conservation programs, in addition to many of the ones you may already be familiar with. Contact your electricity distributor for more information. 

“Conservation is one of the easiest things consumers can do to have a positive impact on both the energy grid and their bottom line.”

MP: What role does renewable energy play in Ontario’s future?

BH: Renewable energy plays a key role in Ontario’s energy future. The province’s Long-Term Energy Plan is forecasting that by 2025, 46 percent of Ontario’s energy mix will be composed of renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, water, and biomass. Ensuring that Ontario is powered by clean energy has been a priority since the province phased out coal earlier this year and replaced it with renewables and other forms of low- and no- emission energy, such as natural gas and nuclear power — both of which represent a substantial benefit to the environment over dirty coal that used to make up a quarter of Ontario’s energy mix.

MP: What are we doing to build a more stable and efficient energy system?

BH:  Ontario’s energy industry is investing heavily in our province’s electricity and natural gas systems to ensure that we have an adequate and reliable supply of energy in the face of ageing equipment, a growing population, and greater demands on our energy infrastructure. Upgrading infrastructure will be critical, but making the system more stable also includes setting clearer rules for how projects get built and making sure that they are cost-effective. In the longer term, solutions will come from the energy innovation sector and the development of technologies that allow us to better manage energy production, distribution, and consumption.

MP: What does the future of energy in Ontario look like?

BH: The province’s Long-Term Energy Plan gives us some insight on what we can expect: cost-effectiveness, reliability, clean energy, community engagement, and an emphasis on conservation and demand management. Ontario’s energy future should also include wider adoption of alternative transportation fuels, like natural gas and electricity, both of which will reduce emissions and costs for Ontarians. The industry is also working to expand energy distribution networks in rural and northern Ontario. Many communities do not have natural gas service and some are only able to get electricity from local diesel generators instead of being connected to the provincial grid. Finally, larger and more efficient electricity distributors will reduce cost pressures on consumers while maintaining the extremely high level of service and reliability that we are all used to.