Thursday, June 13, 2024

TC Energy Responds to Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor

Editor,

We would like to respond to concerns raised in the letter that was published on Friday, May 15, written by Mr. Brunow regarding the pumped storage project proposed by TC Energy. In his letter, Mr. Brunow raises several points that we’ve heard over the past year from the community and we would like to take this opportunity to demonstrate how these concerns have been considered in our initial studies.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions:

Mr. Brunow challenges the independent assessment that was completed by Navigant regarding the expected GHG emissions reductions. Ontario manages surplus baseload generation by either exporting this zero-carbon energy at a discounted price or curtailing (maneuvering) the generation. Reducing the curtailment of zero-carbon generation automatically results in a global emission benefit regardless of where that energy ends up.

It’s important to acknowledge that Ontario’s low-price surplus exports tend to take place at night when demand is low, and at a time when neighbouring markets are also using low-emission electricity resources – so zero-carbon energy exports from Ontario would not necessarily offset coal generation south of the border. Further, the generation fleets in Michigan and New York are rapidly decarbonizing. While there is potential to offset coal-fired generation in 2019 with zero-carbon energy exports, New York will have no coal-fired capacity after 2020 and the majority of Michigan’s current coal fleet is slated for retirement by around the time the pumped storage plant would come into service.

Ontario’s power grid is connected to neighbouring power grids across the U.S. Northeast and Canada. As part of their analysis to determine the GHG reduction potential of the pumped storage project, Navigant took into consideration electricity flows between these power grids and modelled future scenarios with and without the pumped storage facility. Navigant’s models conclude that inclusion of the project in the future will provide significant GHG reductions across the northeast power grid, even as neighbouring grids are forced to rely on less zero-carbon electricity imports from Ontario.

Design update:

This week, we’re sharing information about our new design concept that responds to many of the concerns identified by Mr. Brunow and the community. The power house, which houses the pumping and generating equipment, has been moved away from the shoreline and will be buried in a cavern. Placing the power house deep underground will minimize the visibility of the project facilities from off the base, and particularly from the water, and noise output during operations will be imperceptible.

In response to community concerns around sensitive near-shore fish habitat and the potential for turbidity, we are proposing to relocate the water intake/outfall away from the shoreline. Tunnels installed beneath the lakebed will access deep water avoiding sensitive near-shore fish habitat. The inlet/outlet structures will be raised off the lakebed to avoid bottom dwelling aquatic organisms and the potential to create turbidity. The design will incorporate fixed screens and will limit the velocity of the water withdrawn to further protect fish that may be present. The results are no shoreline or near-shore structures and no visible in-water infrastructure.

Economics:

Pumped storage captures and stores clean excess electricity that we have already paid for – this is the core purpose of this facility. The electricity used by our proposed project is excess electricity that would otherwise be wasted or exported.

The economic study, produced by Navigant for this project, looks at six scenarios. The Base Case represents Navigant’s view of the most likely evolution of the Ontario power system over the next 40 years. The Base Case relies on the Navigant team’s subject matter experts who have specific knowledge and understanding of several fundamental power market characteristics, such as fuel pricing, generation development, asset operation, environmental regulations, and technology development. This case also utilizes publicly available data and forecasts from Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO).

The Clean Grid Case represents more aggressive decarbonization efforts which drive additional load from increased electrification and higher carbon emissions prices, whereas the Low Net Demand Case forecasts low growth and industrial economic restructuring which drive a decrease in Ontario’s electricity peak demand. Even in the assessment of the Low Net Demand scenario which considers electricity demand at its lowest, the project would result in $8 billion in savings for Ontario ratepayers over the course of its life.

If electricity demand remains flat, we have capacity-providing assets in Ontario that are nearing end of life and retiring (most notably the Pickering nuclear plant) and those need to be replaced with something – a resource that is flexible and that can be dispatched by the electricity system operator quickly, like the pumped storage project.

It is early days, but studies have shown that the proposed pumped storage facility presents an environmentally responsible method for reducing Ontario’s electricity system costs and carbon footprint and it offers an economic opportunity for Meaford and surrounding communities.

John Mikkelsen, P.Eng., M.A.Sc.
Director, Power Business Development
TC Energy

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