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Toronto street during a winter storm.

Natural gas powers Ontario through cold snap

Natural gas provides power when it's most needed, such as the recent record cold temperature plunge in Ontario.

Ontario has a diverse energy mix that includes nuclear, hydro and solar and wind. Natural gas is a key part of that energy mix at all times, but particularly when temperatures drop as they have in recent days.

For the first time in recent memory, the entire province was under a cold weather alert. Temperatures in the southern part of the province plunged to record night time lows.

Yet the province remained warm with the lights on as natural gas, naturally, did its stuff.

As the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) reported, “natural gas was readily available regardless of demand and the cold weather.”

The IESO also noted that natural gas provides for over 75% of the winter heating needs of residential, commercial and industrial customers and has year round applications for all three customer classes.

Also, natural gas, through the fleet of gas-fired power generators, can ramp up to quickly meet peak electricity demand. This kind of system flexibility is essential as other energy sources such as renewables may not be readily available, for example, if it’s a cloudy day or the wind isn’t blowing.

During the recent cold snap, natural gas met as much as 22% of Ontario’s electricity needs.

Natural gas is a versatile fuel that is affordable, readily available and produces 40 percent fewer GHG emissions than coal when used to create electricity. 

Its affordability and transportability is why the Ontario Government is investing in natural gas expansion projects to rural, remote and First Nation communities and more specifically a project to supply natural gas to Marathon, Schreiber, Terrace Bay, Manitouwadge and Wawa along the north shore of Lake Superior.

Natural gas will be liquefied at a new facility near Nipigon, Ontario and trucked to LNG depots and converted back to natural gas in those communities to replace diesel, fuel oil, and other energy sources for heating and generating power for industry.

The project is being led by Northeast Midstream, an Ontario-based energy partnership.

Joshua Samuel, president and chief executive officer of the general partner of Northeast Midstream, said the project required a significant amount of effort from the public, First Nations, municipalities and the province.

“Once you get a lower cost energy into the communities and the industries, it’s a virtuous circle in terms of lowering energy costs, improving economic development, sustaining current jobs, building new economic development, providing a platform for other communities and other industry to grow,” Samuel said. “It all starts with access to safe, affordable, reliable, economically efficient energy.”