City councillors in Kingston, Ontario, have voted in favour of “blanket municipal support” for new electricity projects, with an amendment to withhold that the support from any projects that use fossil fuels.
“I think it is highly unlikely that we will see any gas plants coming to Kingston, but just to be crystal clear, we put it in writing,” said Deputy Mayor Wendy Stephen, who put forward the amendment.
“Supporting electricity generated through the burning of fossil fuels would really run counter to the direction we’ve chosen for our city.”
The vote was informed by a report prepared by [pdf] Kingston’s commissioner of community services, Paige Agnew, which recommended 12-month blanket support for applications for long-term reliability projects as prescribed by Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), writes the Kingstonist.
The IESO itself had said the city could also use another mechanism—its Long-Term Request for Proposals (LT1 RFP)— to acquire new electricity generation capacity to ensure a reliable local power supply. The IESO would have approved LT1 RFP applications on a number of criteria, but Kingston’s blanket support could be an advantage for local applicants to the LT1 process. Another alternative would have been to pass project-specific municipal support resolutions.
City council heard from community members during the meeting, including Aric McBay of the Providence Centre for Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation. McBay represented a group of more than 25 signatories who asked council for an amendment to explicitly exclude fossil fuel generation from the blanket support, or to reject the proposed resolution altogether, the Kingstonist writes.
“While renewable energy and conservation are important solutions to the climate crisis, new fossil fuel power plants undermine our collective future,” McBay said, adding that “the IESO Request for Proposals does not include carbon emissions or ecological impact in their evaluation rubric.”
“To reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we need to rapidly expand our renewable generation capacity while transitioning away from fossil fuel generation,” he added. “Unfortunately, that’s not the trajectory that the IESO is currently taking.”
The IESO has previously identified fossil gas as a transitional resource that will be included in plans to decarbonize the electricity grid, despite its emissions. The IESO says the fossil fuel “plays a pivotal role in supporting grid reliability.”
Of the 12 councillors, 11 voted in favour of excluding fossil fuel projects, while Countryside councillor Gary Oosterhof voted against. Oosterhof cited concerns about rising energy costs and reliability issues with some renewable energy sources, like wind.
“We have to be very careful with this,” Oosterhof said. “We are speaking on behalf of 130,000 people in the city who, when they wake up in the morning, want their power to be there.”
“There is a role for gas to play,” he added, cautioning that “politicians can mess up the energy file.”