COP 27 failed. Countries must rapidly shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy and yet the COP accord failed to even mention it. The UN secretary general, with growing dismay, concluded that the goal of limiting global heating to 1.5C is “gasping for breath”. Because the world is “gasping” the UN secretary general announced a “climate ambition summit” for next September.

He added: “The invitation is open. But the price of entry is non-negotiable – serious new climate action… There will be no room for backsliders, greenwashers, blame-shifters …” 

On that basis, the Ontario government won’t be invited to the summit. The Ford government is crowded with backsliders, greenwashers and blame shifters.

Ontario is responsible for 22% of Canada’s GHG emissions but it doesn’t have a climate plan. It has no plan to drive down emissions and it has no plan to protect vulnerable communities and at-risk infrastructure from the ravages of climate breakdown. No mitigation plan, no adaptation plan. As its own lawyers recently told the court what it does have is a ‘glossy brochure’ that has no legal standing and won’t do a thing about emissions.

And now, it has a proposed energy pathway that commits to more bad energy choices. Ontario’s own “highway to climate hell.”

Joe Oliver and the IESO

On December 15, 2022, the IESO (Independent Energy Systems Operator) released its Pathway to Decarbonization report. The IESO identifies itself as “the coordinator and integrator of Ontario’s electricity system.”

Why an organization such as the IESO would be charged with the critical role of proposing Ontario’s energy future is a bit of a puzzle considering who’s in charge.

The chair of the IESO is Joe Oliver. Recall that Joe Oliver was Minister of Natural Resources and Finance Minister in the Harper government. His was the infamous claim that environmentalists were “foreign agitators.” He was turfed from office with the other Harperites back in 2015. After he failed to win the nomination for the 2018 provincial election, Ford rewarded him with a sinecure at the helm of the IESO.

On January 5, 2023, in an opinion piece in the Financial Post, Joe Oliver dug deeper down the conspiracy rabbit hole about climate activists. His views on the climate emergency and the need for an energy transformation make him unsuitable for the job of planning our energy future.

In his opinion piece he rants against: “Liberals, progressives, socialists, hard leftists and crypto- marxists who support climate alarmism, globalism, big government, stakeholder capitalism, critical race theory and wokeism. The transformation they seek is already well under way. There’s even the danger that, like the frog sitting in the slowly heating water, the rest of us may realize what has happened only after it is too late.”

He complains that; “many environmental organizations…view humans’ impact on the planet as inherently destructive and bad” and accuses us of “scaremongering (about an impending climate emergency)”

On the issue of energy transition, he sputters that environmentalists with their “quasi-religious virtue-signalling dictate(s) we…rely predominantly on wind and solar in spite of their intermittency,”

He goes on: “The most prominent environmental groups also oppose clean nuclear power, without which net zero is simply not achievable for the foreseeable future. As Europe’s brutal energy crisis demonstrates, rapid abandonment of fossil fuels and nuclear power leads to energy poverty, power scarcity, compromised national security, slower economic growth, capital flight, business closures and job losses. And, ironically, in spite of the crippling cost it does not reduce greenhouse gas emissions …”

(Joe Oliver recently announced that he is stepping down as chair of the IESO at the end of March.)


Energy Choices

According to the IEA (International Energy Agency) major countries around the world are set to add as much new renewable energy capacity over the next five years as they did over the last 20. In that five-year time frame, 90% of new power generation will be renewable energy.

But not in Ontario.

The Ford government asked the IESO to address two questions: whether a moratorium on new natural gas generating stations was possible and how to develop a pathway to decarbonization in the electricity system?

It seems that Joe Oliver already had the answers. Unfortunately, his answers are the wrong ones.

On the question of a moratorium on new, gas-fired plants, the IESO’s answer is not now, maybe later, maybe starting around 2035, five years after the Paris 2030 targets have been breached and Ontario’s GHG emissions have barrelled past the targets.  And the answer to our long-term energy needs, that is, by year 2050, is more fossil fuels, (hydrogen) and even more nuclear reactors.

The IESO report envisions a huge increase in electrical generation demand by 2050. In order to meet those demands the installed generating capacity of the system will grow to about 84,000 MW. The current installed capacity is about 41,000 MW.

The IESO has concluded that about half (47%) of the energy in 2050 will come from new hydrogen facilities and nuclear reactors. Solar and wind will make up just over 1/4 (27%) of installed capacity.


The IESO claims to be agnostic about the colour of hydrogen. It could be green (which is made from renewable energy), blue (made from fossil fuels) or pink (made from nuclear). But the report leans heavily to fossil fuel hydrogen that will be produced outside of the province.

There is a sleight of hand here.  In the first part of the report the IESO suggests that we could, maybe, retire some gas fired electricity plants by around 2035 and all of them by  2050 (provided we keep some of them around just in case). Currently the capacity of gas fired electricity plants is about 10,000 MW. But by 2050 there will be 15,000 MW of hydrogen capacity, the majority of which will be produced from fossil fuels. At some point we will get rid of 10,000 MW of gas fired electricity but replace it with 15,000 MW of gas fired hydrogen.

A recent article in the Energy Mix reported on the encouraging outlook for renewables in Canada. It quoted the Canadian Renewable Energy Association:

“It’s “go time” for wind, solar, and energy storage in Canada—thanks to low costs, abundant resources, climate imperatives, and an estimated C$50-billion investment opportunity. “

But the IESO puts a big damper on that kind of optimism by promoting hydrogen over renewables. Today that hydrogen capacity does not exist. It is a technology that has not met any serious commercial thresholds. The IESO even admits as much with comments such as: “Assuming its availability in 2036,” … “further work is needed” and so on. Despite those caveats fossil fuel hydrogen is one of the energy pathways the IESO is betting on.

It is unbelievable, even outrageous, that by 2050 the IESO sees fossil fuel hydrogen having as much of a role as wind generation. But even worse is the comparison of hydrogen to solar. By 2050 hydrogen will have two and a half times the installed capacity as solar power. In fact, after some initial growth the IESO confines solar power to a very limited role.


According to the IESO, nuclear reactors will be the workhorse of the grid in 2050. The IESO proposes that nuclear capacity in Ontario will grow by 158%.  It will provide more than 11 times the energy than we will get from solar.

With an anticipated growth of 17,800 MW, nuclear is the largest contributor to all new generating capacity by 2050. For comparison purposes, the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station’s six operating reactors have a capacity of about 3,100 MW. The IESO report therefore anticipates more than 30 new nuclear reactors the size of those at Pickering. If, on the other hand, all the new growth is from Small Modular Reactors (SMR) about the size of the one being built at Darlington, then 59 new SMRs will be built.

Whether large scale or SMRs that is a huge amount of additional nuclear power in Ontario. And whether large scale or SMR there is no possible way that Ontario residents can afford to pay for electricity produced by those reactors.

There are Better Choices

As major economies around the world fast track the shift to more renewable energy, Ontario’s electrical system operator proposes we double down on fossil fuel hydrogen and nuclear power. In the energy field there are two very powerful blocs, one is composed of the fossil fuel giants and the other is the nuclear industry. In a world on the brink of climate breakdown and ecosystem collapse we need a more open, accountable, and democratic process for planning our energy future. It shouldn’t be drafted by those paying homage to fossil fuels and the nuclear establishment. It shouldn’t be up to climate criminals the likes of Doug Ford and Joe Oliver.

David Robertson is a member of the Education Committee as well as the Ontario Project Group and the Campaign and Platform Committee of SCAN!.

We welcome comments and feedback. Please send your responses to