Ontario's peak demand for power was down by almost 5% this summer, suggesting growing public willingness to conserve energy that could help close the province's coal-fired power plants well ahead of schedule, critics said.The power grid was most taxed this summer on June 26 when peak demand hit 25,737 megawatts, good enough for 11th on the list of record-high demand days in Ontario. But that peak was still 1,268 megawatts short of last year's August high - evidence that the province's modest efforts to encourage conservation are working, Jack Gibbons of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance said.
"It's a clear message that if we do energy conservation right, there is a huge potential; the reduction we've seen this year is just the tip of the iceberg," Gibbons said.
"If we aggressively promote energy conservation we will be able to phase out our dirty coal plants by 2010, four years ahead of Premier Dalton McGuinty's proposed schedule."
Even though this summer's peak demand only decreased by 4.7%, that's still the equivalent of one-third of the total output of the Nanticoke generating station, the province's biggest coal-fired power plant, Gibbons said.
He credited some of the province's electric utilities for successfully launching programs to persuade business and residential customers to reduce their energy consumption.
The programs helped reduce demand by as much as 14.5% in Wasaga during peak periods, while Hydro One had reductions of 5.3%.
Terry Young of the Independent Electricity System Operator said conservation definitely played a role in lowering this year's peak demand, although the summer was less hot and humid than the previous year, and overnight temperatures weren't as high.