by Jeff MacGuire Arnprior EMC News
EMC News – The natives are restless and it appears Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and the governing Liberal party is slowly waking up to that fact.
The rapid rise in electricity costs for consumers in this province has finally burst the Grits’ bubble. We are told by the so-called “experts” that the current government is simply passing along hydro rate increases that should have been implemented years ago.
Years of mismanagement has left Ontario’s electricity system in structural and financial chaos. The more recent decision by the McGuinty Liberals to close coal-fired plants to suit their “green” agenda has simply exacerbated an already bad situation.
Now Ontarians are feeling the pinch and frankly conservation isn’t the answer. Most people I know are doing their level best to reduce their use of electricity. But with delivery charges and other “historic” issues the main reason for the cost increases, cutting back won’t do much to assist individual customers.
To make matters much worse, instead of revisiting the matter of traditional electrical generating methods – coal-fired and nuclear power – this government is intent on furthering their green objectives.
Wind and solar energy are “best sellers” in terms of winning votes – or at least the Liberals evidently feel they are because they have been working hard to sell both methods of electrical generation to Ontarians.
For example, wind turbines are becoming a more common site in North America. They’ve been used in wind blown places like the California desert for a long time but are now making their way into the eastern United States, Canada and Ontario.
Wherever turbines are due to be installed, controversy quickly follows. Witness the much maligned installation on Wolfe Island near Kingston. Or a planned “wind farm” near North Gower in rural, south Ottawa.
They are gigantic devices with massive blades which have upset residents who live close to such installations. Many say they are “a blight on the landscape” and there is also some evidence of health problems related to exposure to the waves of energy transmitted from these huge, whirling machines.
Solar farms are somewhat more passive and placed on scrub land, that isn’t much use for farming, they seem harmless enough. The Ontario government is encouraging people to install solar panels on their homes and property. They are even soliciting excess power from large-scale solar developments on private land, in hopes of adding the electricity to the provincial grid.
You might even be able to pay your mortgage, or better, by installing the panels and selling power to the province make a little on the side as well.
I know some people who are “off the grid” because they chose to go solar and install batteries which store the excess energy generated by the sun. Those I have spoken to couldn’t be happier. They aren’t saddled with the sudden increase in hydro payments most of us are.
But is this practical for the majority of people? And more importantly, is electricity generated by solar and wind cost-efficient on a larger scale?
Judging by virtually everything I have read on this subject – and I have read a great deal – there are big questions about that.
On a larger scale solar energy is big business for some companies who are seeking sites across Eastern Ontario and across Canada.
The initial cost of installing solar panels is expensive although some are clearly willing to try it in hopes of saving money and perhaps even generating income.
As for wind power, large scale developments can only be established after months and years of lobbying and hard work by large companies. Gaining approval isn’t easy as we have seen in our own province recently. People, especially neighbours, are skeptical and highly resistant, partly due to unknown factors such as the potential for damaging the health of individuals.
We have also spoken to many people in Europe, particularly the United Kingdom, about wind turbines which are in extensive use there and have been for many years.
Most we have spoken to give them an immediate thumbs down. People in Britain are tired of seeing turbines spring up on so many pieces of vacant land, or standing like behemoths on the horizon, seemingly everywhere.
One of the largest such developments in Europe is planned for the estuary of the River Thames, on the east coast of England. In fact wind farms located in shallow waters, just offshore, are common in Great Britain. And for my money they are ugly!
Outside of aesthetics, the argument against turbines is simple. They add very little to the electrical generating capacity of the countries where they are now commonplace. In Britain for example wind turbines contribute less than three per cent of the electricity which flows into the national grid. And remember, there are thousands of these giant beasts everywhere!
At first blush we weren’t offended by the sight of turbines. We first saw them in wind-swept Cornwall, England in the mid 1990s.
Now my wife and I are tired of the things. They are everywhere in the UK. We just saw a huge development in rural Scotland in August which, from our point of view, scarred an otherwise tranquil and beautiful landscape.
We don’t look forward to seeing that situation develop in our country or worse still in our own backyard.
I have written previously about the large wind farm which sprang up at Brainardsville, New York in the Adirondacks, not far from Malone, a couple of years ago.
At first it was a curiosity to see turbines in this beautiful part of upper New York State. Now we detest the sight of the things when we drive through that part of the northeastern U.S. If we lived there we would be among the many who are lobbying against the things and there is an intense effort to have them removed from what I have read.
In Britain coal-fired electrical generation has gained traction once again because of improvements in how efficiently coal can now be burned. In recent times modern methods have dramatically reduced emissions and made coal a more practical means of producing power.
Obviously nuclear is a much vilified means of electrical production. There are obvious safety considerations involved and therefore many people are scared of it.
Nuclear power generation has to be respected, but in real terms there have been relatively few serious accidents – thank goodness. Of course another Chernobyl is always a possibility and makes us shy away from using a powerful method of generating power.
I am an advocate of taking a fresh look at coal-fired plants, especially given modern science and especially considering the dilemma we so clearly face in this province and this country.
We have to do something and coal-fired is probably the fastest and safest way to improve our electrical generating capacity in heavily populated Ontario, not to mention the rest of Canada.
As for the Ontario government, the increasing stream of letters to the editor in newspapers these days has to be viewed as another setback for an administration which is coming under increasing fire over its electricity-related programs and policies.
Smart meters, skyrocketing delivery charges, along with such things as regulatory and debt retirement charges already had hydro customers in Ontario reeling. Then, on July 1, the McGuinty government introduced the hated Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) and promptly added that to our electrical bills.
It is all too much for most of us and some people have clearly been pushed over the edge by this unexpected, added expense. The complaints have reached tidal wave proportions, so much so that the premier has announced his administration will look at ways of cutting the costs for seniors and low-income earners who, obviously, are among the hardest hit.
What about the rest of us? We don’t want these higher costs either. I don’t know anyone who does.
With a provincial election now just one year away the polls show support for the Liberals dropping like a stone in water. The Progressive Conservatives, despite their own organizational issues, have benefited massively.
The cry “anyone but McGuinty” is rising in crescendo and is giving the opposition parties in Ontario renewed hope and growing confidence.
It is time for practicalities and common sense to push aside the green lobby and get Ontario back on track in this important department.
If you have any comments or questions for Jeff Maguire, he can be reached by e-mail at: email@example.com