Ontario’s Crusade to Cut Coal

(Oct. 26, 2010) Ken Silverstein looks at Ontario’s quest to eliminate coal-fired power plants.

O Canada! Or should we say, “Oh Ontario.” The Canadian province is now updating its long-term energy plan that will attempt to phase out all of its coal-fired power plants and to replace them with carbon-friendly fuels.

Like the United States, the province needs to diversify its energy resources. The projected growth rate there means there’s room for nuclear power, green energy and natural gas. And while is seems unrealistic that Ontario can eliminate its coal units, global pressures to curb climate change will ratchet up the cost of releasing carbon and will make it imperative that it focus on sustainable energy production.

“Seven years ago Ontarians weren’t sure when they flicked the switch if the lights would come on,” says Ontario’s Minister of Energy Brad Duguid, in a formal release. “Now, our power system is strong, reliable and cleaner. Building on these gains and moving this updated plan forward is essential.”

The energy minister goes on to say that since the Liberal government came to power in 2003 the province has increased the amount of “cleaner” generation capacity by 20 percent. It has pledged to reduce its heat-trapping emissions by 15 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and then ultimately to cut them 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

To fulfill its blue print originally written a few years ago and which is now getting re-appraised, the government there says that it will still close down by 2014 all of its coal-fired power generation. Such power, which had generated 20 percent a few years ago, now comprises 14 percent.

It’s all part of the Ontario Green Energy Act, which awards lucrative benefits to developers of carbon-free projects as well as requires those builders there to buy at least half of their parts from Canadian businesses – a move that has caused Japan to complain about unfair trade practices to the World Trade Organization.

Renewable energy now makes up a quarter of Ontario’s mix, albeit hydro makes up most of that. The province’s goal is to double its current green energy production to about 15,700 megawatts by 2015.

But critics of the government’s chosen path say that it is expensive and unrealistic. Citizens there are complaining about rising electricity rates, a direct result of the subsidies given to renewable energy developers – dissent in which policymakers are working to quell by granting tax breaks to homeowners who install green technologies.

At the same time, some are estimating that the province will be 15,000 megawatts shy of what it needs in 2025 when its energy plan is “complete.” That’s would suggest that Ontario pause before cutting its coal generation and instead, consider the implementation of new clean coal technologies.

“I will not shut down our perfectly viable coal plants,” says Lawrence Solomon, executive director of Energy Probe, who is giving advice to Ontario’s opposition conservative party. “I will not subsidize one more windmill or solar collector or nuclear reactor or hydroelectric plant.”

Ideologically Driven

But Ontario’s Liberal government sees it differently. Policymakers there say that their choice is clear, reasoning that a host of global challenges require that they take the lead so that the next generation of economic opportunities can get underway. Along those lines, the province’s generation capacity has increased by 8,000 megawatts while employment there is expected to increase by 50,000 jobs.

Beyond its objective of eliminating coal and boosting the use of renewables, the current administration in Ontario is also committed to refurbishing its nuclear capacity as well as building upon its prominent natural gas base. Nuclear now comprises about half of the province’s generation fleet, although its units are getting old. Natural gas, meanwhile, makes up about 8 percent – an amount that is expected to double by 2018.

Environmental critics, no doubt, point to the high cost of building new nuclear plants while adding that further reliance on natural gas will do little to dent carbon emissions. But the Liberal government there says that it is committed to growing each fuel source to meet the projected future electricity demand of 1.3 percent a year – all while gradually purging the use of coal-fired power.

The Association of Power Producers of Ontario is generally compliant, saying that the province needs a balance among nuclear, green and natural gas if it is to secure a long-term, cleaner energy future. To that end, it says that the region’s producers are internationally-renowned for developing new, cutting-edge power generation tools.

“Climate change is one of the most important new factors to enter the policy environment in recent years,” says Dave Butters, president of the power producers group. “It’s important that the perspective of generators be well developed and well understood, since we can offer some of the most effective options for addressing global climate issues.”

Ontario’s government says that it will partner with business to usher in the new energy era – one in which it is totally driven to apply. The province is well on the way, it says, as it is adding the needed capacity and doing so in a way that betters the environment.

Many are dubious of the broad outline, saying it sounds like a lot of wishful thinking. But the Ontario’s government says otherwise. The province says that while its energy plan must be flexible so as to adjust to changing conditions, it will remain committed to its primary objective — to notably bring down greenhouse gas emissions without without compromising reliability.

Ken Silverstein, GPACE, October 26. 2010

Read the original article here.

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1 Response to Ontario’s Crusade to Cut Coal

  1. Sean Holt says:

    ““Seven years ago Ontarians weren’t sure when they flicked the switch if the lights would come on,” says Ontario’s Minister of Energy, in a formal release.”

    This absolute fantasy to which ignoramus Brad Duguid eludes is based on the lie perpetrated by his own party! The Ontario blackout in 2003 was a direct result of a poorly maintained grid in Ohio exacerbated by a software bug in that same grids computer management software. This is information in the public domain. The fact that Dalton and his band of thieves are apparently unaware of it doesn’t bode well for their future in office.

    To set the record straight: Ontario has NEVER had a blackout the cause of which was lack
    of power generation capacity.

    “Now, our power system is strong, reliable and cleaner.” Really!? Tell that to Toronto. What do they get; 8 or more power failures a month caused by lack of grid redundancy and maintenance?

    The GEA will solve this of course by spending untold billions on “reliable”, “green” wind and solar generation and the massively expensive new grid connections to these. Sure THAT will
    work! Just like is has in other jurisdictions, right? Where exactly?

    If it is the intention of a government to bankrupt a jurisdiction while destroying both its economy and its environment, the absolute best way to do that would be by enacting A
    Green Energy Act like Dalton did!

    The results were not only predictable but forewarned by every other jurisdiction that tried it to date without exception!!

    You reporters need to STOP supporting the illusion of green energy. Wind, solar and biofuels even combined have already proven ineffective everywhere they have been implemented. Because of the low reliability and/or energy density of these technologies, they can never be more then niche generation. The sooner this obviousness is realized the sooner we can implement meaningful change!

    The advice I give to people in Ontario is: Either get off the grid or leave the province, you know, like our businesses are doing in droves!

    Truthfully…

    Sean Holt.

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