April 15, 2005
Ottawa: One of Canada’s leading electricity experts has lambasted suggestions in the Kyoto plan about the federal government helping to finance construction of a coast-to-coast transmission grid as a way to deliver clean energy.
Such a scheme poses risks to Canadians in delivering reliable service. Moreover, it is “grossly unfair” because it would cost taxpayers tens of billions in tax dollars to benefit mostly Ontario.
“This is just silly,” said Tom Adams, executive director of Energy Probe, a national energy and environmental watchdog. “The government is living in an Alice in Wonderland world, where front is back and back is front.”
Mr. Adams was not the only individual yesterday to debunk the Liberal government’s $10-billion Kyoto plan, which has been widely panned for its price tag, vagueness and lack of detail.
Thomas d’Aquino, president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, said the Kyoto plan will impose “huge costs on taxpayers and will fail to meet its goals.” As a result, he warned of “serious consequences” for the economy, jobs and consumers, and urged the Liberal government to undertake some “sober second thought” before pursuing its climate-change strategy.
Mr. Adams’ criticism stems from elements in the government’s Kyoto plan, entitled Project Green, that envisages a number of strategic investments aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. One of those is a east-to-west transmission grid that would deliver electricity produced from hydro dams across the country.
Among the Cabinet ministers who have toyed with such a grid are Stephane Dion, the Environment Minister, and Ralph Goodale, the Finance Minister.
The Ontario government has also been one of the biggest proponents, largely because it has power supply problems. Moreover, it has pledged to shut down its coal-fired plants by the end of next year as a way to cut carbon dioxide output.
But Mr. Adams said a coast-to-coast grid is a misguided initiative that will cost tens of billions. Also, he noted there is a dubious history of government-led electricity megaprojects because the majority run over budget and fail to meet expectations.
The current grid structure in Canada is mostly north-south since most of the population lives near the U.S. border. North-south transmission connections ensure the availability of imports from the United States, and give provinces the chance to export excess power to neighbouring U.S. states.
“A shift of the grid to east-west would probably reduce reliability,” Mr. Adams warned, noting electricity loses its charge the longer it is forced to travel. “We will be making consumers more exposed to the inherent weaknesses of long-distance transportation of electricity.”
Mr. Adams noted Ontario and New Brunswick are the ones pushing hardest for the east-west grid.
“They are looking for federal bailouts of their electricity systems because these jurisdictions are the most mismanaged electricity systems in the country,” Mr. Adams said. “If the federal government takes on responsibility for fixing these problems, they create a major fairness problem for taxpayers in other parts of country.”