Ontario will import enough electricity from Quebec to power a city of over 200,000 people under a seven-year agreement signed Friday at a joint cabinet meeting of the two governments.
Premiers Kathleen Wynne and Philippe Couillard signed the deal which will see Ontario import up to two terawatt hours of electricity from Quebec annually, allowing the province to reduce its use of natural gas to generate power.
The agreement is expected to save Ontario’s electricity system about $70 million in costs over the seven years, and allow the province to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by one million tonnes a year. They declined to say how much Ontario is paying Hydro Quebec for power, saying it’s “commercially sensitive.”
Ontario plans to join the cap-and-trade market with Quebec and California next January, and Canada’s two largest provinces have been finding more ways to work together on initiatives to combat climate change.
Environmentalists have long urged Ontario to import more clean power from Quebec’s hydro-electric dams, but officials always said that would require huge and expensive upgrades to the transmission lines linking the two provinces.
However, the provinces say the existing transmission lines can support their new power agreement.
Green Party of Ontario Leader Mike Schreiner calls the Quebec deal a step in the right direction, but said the province should also shut down the Pickering nuclear station and cancel the rebuild of reactors at the Darlington station.
The new agreement will also allow Ontario to keep up to 500 gigawatt hours of power behind Quebec’s dams in what is called a “pump storage” system, which will allow the province to reduce its surplus generation.
Wynne’s Liberal government faces daily attacks from the opposition parties over soaring electricity prices, and is looking to do whatever it can to ease upward pressure on rates.
Ontario already has a surplus of power, and has signed 20 year contracts for electricity from two new natural-gas fired generating stations being built in Sarnia and Napanee.
Those gas-fired plants were originally going to be built in Mississauga and Oakville until the Liberals cancelled them days before the 2011 election, which the auditor general said would cost ratepayers up to $1.1 billion.