There’s an obvious solution to prevent a repeat of the recent fiasco where Ontario had to pay Quebec and the U.S. almost $1.5 million to take surplus electricity generated by wind turbines on New Year’s Day.
It’s turn off the turbines.
In a logical world, that’s what would have happened when mild temperatures and low power demand — to be expected on a statutory holiday — caused the surplus.
Unfortunately, we’re talking about Premier Dalton McGuinty’s so-called “green” energy policies, where nothing is logical. Under it, the province has to take super-expensive power produced by wind turbines first, regardless of whether we need it.
The private operators of these turbines have signed long-term contracts to supply this electricity, power which is already heavily subsidized by electricity consumers, since wind energy isn’t financially viable without those subsidies.
This situation is only going to get worse in future, as 5,000 megawatts of wind energy capacity is scheduled to come online in Ontario by 2013.
Meanwhile, we aren’t consuming anywhere near the amount of electricity predicted just a few years ago — when we were warned we were facing a looming energy shortage, complete with blackouts and brownouts.
That’s because of the 2008 global recession and the fact Ontario’s manufacturing sector was already in trouble long before that.
To be fair, McGuinty and the Liberals aren’t responsible for the global recession and accurate predictions about energy needs have always been difficult to make.
But the fact the province is only now beginning to study such simple things as turning off wind turbines when they’re not needed, is a clear indication of the haphazard way in which McGuinty has implemented his “green” energy plan.
The bitter irony for energy consumers is that, logically, a surplus of electricity compared to demand should lower prices.
But not when that energy is already being heavily subsidized by consumers and has to be bought and used, whether it’s needed or not.
To be clear, electricity prices in Ontario are also skyrocketing because of blunders by previous governments and long-term neglect of the power grid that McGuinty and the Liberals inherited when they took office in 2003.
That said, it was McGuinty who decided to introduce the Harmonized Sales Tax July 1, which immediately added 8% to already rapidly rising hydro bills.
That fiasco left the premier — with an election looming — scrambling to lessen the economic blow, with a 10% rebate on electricity as of Jan. 1, and an enhanced tax credit for some seniors.
But the fact his government still hasn’t come up with a way to turn off expensive, surplus wind power when it isn’t needed, suggests McGuinty is still making up energy policy on the fly and doesn’t have a handle on the file.
Assuming he still enjoys his job, the premier had better do so by the time the Oct. 6 general election rolls around.