TORONTO/VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Ontario unveiled a sweeping long-term power plan on Tuesday that throws the province's support squarely behind renewable energy, but also brought bad news for consumers who will see their electricity bills double by 2030.
Canada's most populous province sees the proportion of Ontario's electricity coming from renewable sources like wind and solar rising by 10 percentage points to 13 percent by 2018, according to the energy blueprint.
While the news was welcomed by supporters of renewable and nuclear energy, consumers will see electricity bills soar as the province invests billions in new transmission lines, refurbishes and starts up new nuclear facilities, and pays above-market rates for solar and wind energy.
The province estimates that private and public capital investments totaling C$87 billion ($85.2 billion) will be needed to make the 20-year plan work.
"The proof of the pudding always is in the eating of it and there's a lot in this plan that is aspirational, and I think some of the targets are good but ambitious," said Adam White, president of the Association of Major Power Consumers in Ontario.
Last year, Ontario launched its Green Energy Act and North America's most comprehensive and lucrative set of feed-in tariffs, or rates, paid to developers of energy from renewable sources like the sun, wind, water, biomass and biogas.
The energy from low-emissions sources will help to fill the power void as the province shuts down all its high-emissions coal-fired power stations by 2014.
The province, whose manufacturing sector was hard-hit by the global recession, hopes to create 50,000 jobs in the first three years from a green energy industry.
"You cannot build a clean, modern reliable energy system without making these important investments," Ontario Energy Minister Brad Duguid said.
"If you want to get out of coal, it's going to cost a little bit. If you want to get cleaner air, there's a cost to that. If you want to have a cleaner future for your kids and grandkids, if you want to have thousands of clean energy jobs and make Ontario a clean energy global leader, yes there's a cost to that."
To help offset the rate hikes and quell criticism from consumers and opposition parties ahead of an election next year, Ontario announced a 10 percent rebate last week on energy bills over five years..
On Tuesday Duguid also confirmed media reports that cheaper, off-peak hours rates electricity will be extended by two hours. There will also be tax credits for seniors and low- and middle-income Ontarians.
The long-term plan estimates the province's power generation mix in 2030 will be made up of 46 percent nuclear, 20 percent hydroelectric, 10 percent wind, 7 percent natural gas, 1.5 percent solar and 1.3 percent bioenergy.
The forecast energy mix comes after a 14 percent contribution from conservation programs, which the province regards as another resource.
The province currently gets about 52 percent of its power from nuclear, 19 percent from hydro, 15 percent from gas and oil, 8 percent from coal, 2 percent from wind, 1 percent
from bioenergy and 4 percent from conservation.
"The plan specifies more wind energy, more quickly and the building of the transmission lines to make it happen. We are very pleased," Canadian Wind Energy Association president Robert Hornung said.
The province said it would fast-track the closing of two coal units at the Nanticoke facility to 2011, three years ahead of schedule.
The energy document also includes plans to modernize units at the Bruce and Darlington nuclear power plants, which are expected to reach the end of their service lives over the next decade, and to build two new reactors at Darlington. The nuclear plans are budgeted at C$33 billion.
Ontario will invest about C$2 billion in five transmission projects to be completed over the next seven years to help connect renewable projects, which are often in outlying areas, into the grid.
Reporting by Claire Sibonney; writing by Nicole Mordant; editing by Rob Wilson