By Christina Blizzard, Toronto Sun
Stupid. Reckless. Incompetent.
What word captures the way Dalton McGuinty’s government has blown it when it comes to windmills and green energy?
Having sold us on their new, clean, green energy, and having hiked our bills to the stratosphere, the province is now in a situation where we have so much wind power, we had to pay Quebec and U.S. states more than $1 million to take it off our hands.
You’ve heard of fire sales? This was a wind sale.
New Year’s Day was warm — and windy. Our windfarms were in overdrive. Most of industry was shut down, so energy demands were low.
You can’t store electricity, so you either have to cut back on production — or find somewhere for it to go.
In brave new Ontario, the government pays windfarm operators a whopping 13.5¢ a kilowatt hour (kwh) to generate electricity.
That compares to about 2.5¢ a kwh for electricity from hydro plants such as Niagara and about 5.5¢ for nuclear.
(On top of that, we pay a “Global adjustment of about 3¢ a kwh — and going up — for new wind and solar projects).
The Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) must take electricity produced by wind first.
So with an excess, generators such as the Beck Plant in Niagara Falls were forced to spill water. Yes, you heard. We had to throw away the cheapest, greenest electricity in the world from Niagara to make way for the really expensive green wind stuff.
And we still had too much — so we had to pay our neighbours to take the expensive stuff off our hands.
(You can’t turn off a gas plant or a nuclear plant completely, because they’re big and complicated to re-boot.)
Energy Minister Brad Duguid defended the sale.
“We were paid to take power from other jurisdictions on Dec. 30,” Duguid said. “It’s a reciprocal arrangement that has been in place for some time.
“Any jurisdiction that is operating on the open market is subject to this kind of provision, where energy exchanges when your demand dips below your baseload capacity and it is more expensive to start shutting down some of those baseload capacity units, like your nuclear units, than it is to pay somebody to take that surplus power that occurs on rare occasions.”
Fair enough. Only two problems with that. First, industry is still in a funk. We aren’t using as much power — so these days we’re using less power all the time. How often will this occur?
Second, if you have to pay people to take excess juice, why would you keep generating the really expensive stuff, like wind?
Surely you should tell the wind operators to shut down first.
A spokesman for the IESO says that’s what they are looking at.
“One of the things we are working at is the ability to turn off that wind.
“If you’ve got a situation that’s going to last for a couple of hours, does it make sense to turn off a plant that’s going to be off for 72 hours, that you might need within those 72 hours, or does it make sense to turn something off for a couple of hours, and deal with the situation that way?” said Terry Young.
In the immortal words of Oscar the Grouch: It isn’t easy being green. It’s not cheap, either.