Ontario Gets 35% of Energy From Renewables As Coal Plants Shut Down
As coal-fired plants have vanished from its landscape, renewable energy has taken off in a big way in Ontario, Canada's most populous province.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
CleanTechnica reports that, with 2,312 megawatts (MW) of wind power, 4,091 MW of hydro and 159 MW from other sources, renewables hit 35 percent of all the energy going into the grid one day this week. That amount will vary, of course, depending on how windy it is on a given day.
CleanTechnica also pointed to a number of projects in development, with wind leading the the way which, when completed, would produce a total of almost 5,000 MW of new renewable energy. Together with existing sources, they could meet almost half the province's demand.
The surge was undoubtedly pushed by Ontario's aggressive drive to eliminate coal-fired power plants. Its Nanticoke Generating Station, the largest in North America and Canada's largest source of greenhouse emissions, closed last year. The Thunder Bay Power Station, its last coal-burning plant, closed in April, making the province entirely coal-free. It was ahead of its target by nearly eight months. And it was ahead of a goal of 2015 announced in 2002 by over a year.
"Ontario is now the first jurisdiction in North America to fully eliminate coal as a source of electricity generation," a press release from its Ministry of Energy said when Thunder Bay closed.
"The plant is scheduled to be converted to burn advanced biomass, a renewable fuel source. The province has replaced coal generation with a mix of emission-free electricity sources like nuclear, waterpower, wind and solar, along with lower-emission electricity sources like natural gas and biomass. A coal-free electricity supply mix has led to a significant reduction in harmful emissions, as well as cleaner air and a healthier environment."
Since 2003, according to the ministry, its coal closure plan has eliminated 30 megatonnes of emissions from Ontario's environment.
“Getting off coal is the single largest climate change initiative undertaken in North America and is equivalent to taking up to seven million cars off the road," said Ontario Minister of Energy Bob Chiarelli in announcing the closure.
"Today we celebrate a cleaner future for our children and grandchildren while embracing the environmental benefits that our cleaner energy sources will bring.”
When legislation was announced last November to permanently ban coal, the province's Minister of the Environment Jim Bradley said, “Coal-fired electricity generation is a major source of health-threatening smog, and of climate-destabilizing carbon dioxide. Our proposed legislation will ensure that dirty coal-fired electricity remains a practice of the past.”
Nuclear energy remains the biggest source of power generation in the province.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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