by Tasha Kheiriddin, National Post
Is the green movement finally fading to black? In the recent federal election, the environment rated barely a whisper. While Green Party leader Elizabeth May won her seat, even her party took pains to highlight other policies, including income splitting. And now, from Ontario, comes a direct challenge to politicians’ eco-obsessions of the last decade: provincial Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak vows to scrap green energy “sweetheart deals” if he forms government in October’s provincial election.
“Tim Hudak said a Conservative government would abandon both the feed-in tariff (FIT) program and its young sibling, micro-FIT -two initiatives that have encouraged new solar installations across the province in recent months.
The programs, which promise heavily subsidized 20-year contracts for new renewable energy producers who build roughly half their projects with materials made in Ontario, were designed to spark a green energy manufacturing sector in the province while also easing reliance on traditional power sources.
It is praised in some quarters as innovative, a first of its kind in North America.
But with contracts paying as much as 80.2 cents per kilowatt hour -versus a spot-market energy price of roughly 3.15 cents much of the time -Mr. Hudak called the FIT program “unsustainable” and said it is “unnecessarily driving up the cost of energy for families and businesses.” He said he will honour existing contracts.”
In 2010 Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty inked a $7 billion sole-sourced contract with South Korean industrial giant Samsung. Under the deal, Samsung is to build four wind turbine manufacturing plants, which are supposed to create 16,000 jobs and generate 2,500 megawatts of wind and solar power. In exchange, the province would reserve 500 megawatts of transmission capacity for Samsung’s operations, while taxpayers would fork out massive subsidies; the details of the deal are secret, but the Conservatives claim taxpayers will have to pay an additional $437 million above and beyond multi-billion dollar subsidies already provided for in the province’s Green Energy Act. McGuinty’s own cabinet was divided over the deal, and both the Tories and NDP called for an investigation into the way it was awarded.
Apart from the controversy surrounding the Samsung deal itself, it remains that wind and solar power are among the least reliable and cost-efficient alternative to oil-based energy. One cannot control when the sun shines or the wind blows, leaving turbines and collectors – and those who rely on them – at nature’s mercy, in terms of generating and receiving power. In contrast, hydroelectric systems and nuclear plants both represent far more predictable sources of power, and despite the recent tragic events in Japan, nuclear energy remains a safe alternative in our own country.
Will energy be the ballot question in the next Ontario election campaign? Between this speech and plans to unveil further planks of an energy platform, it seems the Tories are powering up the issue. And while the Green Giant is far from slain, he does appear to be wounded.