Political spin heats up McGuinty power plan

PCs dirty, Liberals clean. Got the message?

By Randall Denley, The Ottawa Citizen

Are any of our three major Ontario political parties capable of producing a power plan that will keep the lights on for an affordable price?

Based on what we saw this week, you can scratch the Liberals off the list. Their 20-year power plan reads more like an election platform plank than a sober, long-term look at our power needs. They are prepared to spend billions on green energy that will produce almost no power and are fixated with making a political point about coal.

The government document just can’t tell you enough times how much the former Progressive Conservative government loved dirty coal, while the Liberals love clean power.

PCs dirty, Liberals clean. Got the message?

Politics aside, the Liberal plan says nuclear reactors will still be producing 46 per cent of our power in 2030. It optimistically estimates that providing that stated supply through new reactors and refurbishing existing ones will cost $33 billion, the single biggest piece of their $87-billion plan.

This is obviously the critical part of the plan, but the government isn’t even close to action.

Uncertainty over the future of Atomic Energy Canada Limited and a high AECL bid for a new reactor have put everything on hold.

It’s difficult to take a plan seriously when the centrepiece is so uncertain. That’s not the worst of it, though. Way back in 2007, the predecessor of this plan proposed spending $7 billion on renewable power, primarily wind. The new plan boosts that to $27 billion.

What do we get for all that money? Not much. The government wants to spend $9 billion on solar power, while acknowledging that this source will provide only 1.5 per cent of our total power in 2030. A spokesman for Energy Minister Brad Duguid says that the spending is meant to be an investment to help develop a solar industry in Ontario.

Which takes us to the next problem.

This isn’t a plan to deliver the lowest-cost power while still respecting the environment. It’s a job-creation plan charged to you on your hydro bill. That’s why Ontario isn’t interested in buying any additional hydroelectric power from Quebec, even though that province has a surplus, the power is green and the price is cheap. Despite all that, Quebec power won’t create jobs in Ontario, so it’s not of interest, the ministerial spokesman says.

The Liberals’ green-power/job-creation plan will definitely guarantee higher power bills, but the job-creation part is much more in question. This week, the province’s competitiveness and productivity task force questioned the McGuinty government’s claim that its green-energy plan would create 50,000 new jobs.

The task force, which has had a big influence on government policy in the past, pointed out that rising electricity prices will cost jobs in other sectors. It also reminded us that long-term, high-priced contracts for one particular technology don’t drive innovation and they might not even be effective at reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. All of this was ignored in the latest McGuinty government report.

Being a combination of wishful thinking, green ideology and political spin, the McGuinty plan is certainly easy to criticize. The frustrated premier lashed out at the opposition leaders this week for dumping on him without offering plans of their own.

One can’t feel too sorry for McGuinty. He wanted to be premier. It’s up to his government, and not the opposition, to address this issue. That said, both the NDP and the PCs will need credible alternatives before the next election. Fortunately, McGuinty has left lots of leeway.

People will rightly look to PC leader Tim Hudak for guidance, since his party is leading in the polls. So far, there isn’t much to see. Hudak’s comment that he is consulting “moms and dads and small-business owners” is just inane.

Both the Liberals and the PCs show enthusiasm for engaging in a depressing debate over who is responsible for Ontario’s power system not being in better shape than it is today. Does it matter? This is an issue about the future and the only relevant question should be: what is the best way to generate electricity at the lowest cost and with the lowest environmental impact?

Hudak should be telling us that he will kill plans to spend $9 billion on solar and $14 billion on wind, get moving on nuclear and buy as much cheap, green power as Quebec will sell us. These are the fundamentals of any sensible approach to power in this province and he shouldn’t need “moms and dads” to tell him that.

18 thoughts on “Political spin heats up McGuinty power plan

  1. “Hudak should be telling us that he will kill plans to spend $9 billion on solar and $14 billion on wind, get moving on nuclear and buy as much cheap, green power as Quebec will sell us. These are the fundamentals of any sensible approach to power in this province and he shouldn’t need “moms and dads” to tell him that.”

    Like that’s fairly obvious. Right? Tell me it’s obvious. Tell me that even Hudak won’t miss this.

  2. Time for us “moms and dads” to demand it from him.

  3. Lower electricity prices would mean more money available for items like food or maybe conservation efforts but instead the Liberal’s prefer more income spent on their higher priced electricity scheme. Buying lower priced Quebec power may allow more industries in Ontario to survive and more jobs, but Liberals would lose control of that money. The Liberal’s are not interested in job creation but obtaining as much money as possible directly from the consumer. Taxes are no longer enough as the Liberal’s have too many friends to feed.

  4. It seems to me that buying power from Quebec makes sense, it will create jobs, in the long run as businesses will be able to afford to stay in Ontario as there hydro will be cheap. It will attract new business here instead of them going elsewhere.
    Ontario people should learn to conserve, use things that use a lot of hydro less, if we use less then we will need less.

  5. As used in the Ontario energy debate conservation means voluntary rationing.

    Perhaps people who believe that energy conservation is essential should refrain from having outdoor holiday lights. All of this wasted energy sends misleading signals to children.

    You can’t have it both ways or can you? If you want or can afford it then it’s ok but not for poor people.

  6. You just have to take deep breaths and count to one hundred or something when you realize that Quebec is building wind farms too! A province with clean-ish hydro to spare for Ontario and the U.S. and even they have the wind up.

  7. But what about the jobs that green energy will create? These new jobs and the jobs created by the HST….
    “The direction of the Ontario Liberals is the failed policy of Spain”, —Kevin Libin, National Post · Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010 “—that every megawatt of renewable power generated cost five Spanish jobs (Ontario, having cribbed Spain’s model, is just now confronting its own electrical cost reckoning)….”
    But will they take note?

  8. I just love how these armchair experts say things like “buy as much cheap, green power as Quebec will sell us.” This is just not the way things are. I traded power with these folks and I can tell you that they can supply lots of hydro-electric energy at times and they have lots of capacity, BUT they do not have the type of energy that this guy alludes to. They often buy power from the States and other Canadian provinces in the off peak so that they can pond their valuable water for sale during the peak hours and seasons. This and the other troublesome problems such as instability in transmitting power from the James Bay project to Toronto and the environmental impact of the James Bay project kind of dim the allure of this idea, which by the way has been looked at by others over the decades. This is old hash in a new can. Don’t buy it. As far as the parties are concerned, the Liberals green stupidity is going to kill us all. The NDP’s green program is more akin to the GEA on steroids. This leaves Hudak who may not have said too much yet, but at least alludes that he is intent on protecting the financial security of the little guy.

  9. Before everyone gets upset, my CAPITAL letters does not mean i am yelling, i am just trying to emphasize.

    Mr. Coates understands what is going on here. I am sure the fact that his having worked in the “Electricity” system gives him a much better understanding of it.

    I too am employed by the system Mr. Coates worked for. Currently i am still employed with that system, but only God or our premiere knows for how long, as it is being slowly but surely beinng broken down into little bits, until what used to be the pride of Ontario, will be the pride of Samsung, or some other firm “not made in Ontario”. Remember we sold off a bunch of nice, clean, and paid for (by the taxes of the poor working folks), Hydro electric facilities a few years ago.(just like the 407, petro can…and the list goes on)

    But don’t blame it all on the premiere, because it is not all his fault. What you say…someone standing up for Dashing Dalton!!! Not at all, personally i think he is a dweeb, but aren’t most politicians?

    The people and voters of Ontario share some of this blame, and no it is not because we voted in Dalton, and didn’t vote for Tory or whoever. Remember ALL POLITICIANS ARE THE SAME. they will tell you what you want to hear!!! 50,000 thousand jobs created by “green energy” whatever. People need to get educated, and know what they are talking about, not just believe what the papers say remember DIRTY COAL, DIRTY COAL. Why doesn’t every one just say COAL?(maybe a little brainwashing)

    Is coal dirty, your dam right it is. BUT IT CAN BE CLEANED

    Is nuclear power scary, costly, and who knows where we are going to put the waste, and what that is going to do to our grand kids and their families, but why would we care about that…they won’t be living in Ontario. Because they won’t be able to afford it.

    Is solar good, sure it is when the sun shines, and manufacturing costs drop until we can afford them WITHOUT GOVERNMENT SUBSIDIES. And we are paying true market costs, not charging the rate payer 5.9 cents or 10cents or ? but paying the supplier 70cents,80cents or ?, which by the way just in case anyone has not gotten it yet…YOU PAY FOR ALL OF IT EVEN THOUGH IT IS NOT ON YOUR HYDRO BILL. IT GETS PAID THROUGH YOU TAXES.

    Is wind good yes when the wind blows. which in case you have not noticed is not 24hrs/day 7 days a week, or at a constant speed. Just so i don’t repeat myself just reread the capital letters above. Basically same scam with feed in tariffs mentioned for solar. But the BIGGEST DRAWBACK IS THE ADVERSE HEALTH EFFECTS and i sure as hell don’t want one close to my house.

    Is water good, sure it is, the best…oh ya we sold some of our facilities for pennies on the dollar. Water would be the solution, but as we all know we are not as lucky as Quebec. oh yeah TUNNEL NIAGARA FALLS ON TIME ON BUDGET(hahahaha) not finished yet.

    Ah everyone is saying, you forgot the savior Natural Gas…Natural Gas is a fossil fuel, and it puts out CO2. And can only run minimum load at 300mw, which is why Ontario Power Generation, and the IESO spills water so that Natural Gas can generate. For those that don’t understand what spilling water means, i will explain it. The generating dams which we haven’t given away, let water run by them without generating electricity, because we have gas plants on contract which have to generate.

    Before this comment gets too long as it would take a book to understand it all and nobody takes the time to read it i will get to my point.

    If it is not too late to undo the carnage, the only way to save this province, is a COMPLETE MIX of Coal, Natural Gas, Hydraulic, Nuclear, Biomass, Wind, Solar, and Conservation.

    But we have to go back to way things were, when Sir Adam Beck envisioned and foresaw, over a century ago, the problems associated with private power companies. With his mantra “power at cost” and “dona naturae pro populo sunt” (the gifts of nature are for the public), he became the first chairman of the Hydro-Electric power system. His vision would go on to create exceptional economic growth and wealth for this province, and country.

    For over a hundred years, generations of citizens of Ontario have used their tax dollars to build a world class system that reliably delivers electricity, at cost, to this province. Industries that rely heavily on cheap electricity such as paper, mining, automotive, steel and countless others, have built their plants in Ontario, bringing prosperity and quality jobs with them.

    THEIR IS NO OTHER ALTERNATIVE THAT WILL GIVE US AFFORDABLE POWER, WITH TODAY’S TECHNOLOGY AND FUELS, and unfortunately no politician who will admit to this, because COAL IS DIRTY and if they tell you we need the DIRTY COAL PLANTS, they won’t get elected.

    Remember 2/3rds of the provinces power is still generated by OPG, and what has been the average cost for the past year. 4.6 cents/kilowatt. I dare anyone in this entire forum, or the province to show me what their average cost was or what they were paid for the other 1/3 and if it is anywhere near 4.6 i will run naked through the streets of whatever city you wish. Remember OPG is not allowed to make money on the market like the other players, and this scam was dreamt up by they people that run this province. Come on people of Ontario if you ran this province would you make a deal that allows everyone else and their brother to make money, but limit yourself. Oh yeah i forgot these are the people that wanted to sell off their PROFITABLE government businesses like they LCBO.

    People of Ontario need to make their voices heard, but they need to know what they want. You want Green Power the way Dashing Dalton wants to give it to you, then be prepared to pay, or do you want Affordable energy with a strong economy with jobs and manufacturing, and once you have that economic base then you attack the issues like CO2 etc.

    Once you decide, you must let your politician/political party know. Stay after them, make your voices heard, protest, yell scream do whatever it takes, but don’t let them make your choices for you!!! Just look at their track record!

  10. Hang on folks. There is still 11 months until the election. The PC platform has not been announced and likely will not be announced until closer to the election. No point in giving the libs a heads up this early.

  11. OK…

    Just the facts!

    ASSUMING of course that CO2 is in some bizarre way harmful to the environment or is even capable of causing climate change. (This is a huge assumption!)…

    Coal should be cleaned and the carbon used to make even more fuel using the already commercialized Fischer–Tropsch process. This can be done quickly and is an excellent short term (less then 50 years) solution.

    Natural gas only works if we get the gas through the “fracking” of rock shales which is hideously harmful to aquifers and still produces oodles of CO2 and the particulate emissions are even more harmful then those from coal.

    hydro isn’t great if vast river eco systems are damned up and terrestrial eco systems flooded but at least it is reliable and CO2 free.

    Industrial green energy is a non-starter as it has absolutely dismal energy density and is criminally expensive and unreliable.

    Nuclear is feared because it produces mushroom clouds and oodles of spent fuel which apparently can’t be dealt with. This of course is PURE FANTASY! Science has known for many decades how to make ultra safe nuclear reactors that don’t produce any spent fuel and these have actually been built!

    Waste reprocessing with waste-to-energy is THE ONLY sensible way to deal with municipal solid waste including sewage sludge but is largely ignored in Canada. This of course produces oodles of both resources AND energy while reducing overall pollution from this material by at least an order of magnitude.

    A sensible solution to Ontario’s manufactured electricity crisis is childishly simple which is why it will never be done:

    In the short term; keep and clean up the coal, Keep the nat gas, keep the hydro, keep and maintain the nuclear, loose the industrial green energy!

    In the future; retrofit the Candus using the existing containment structures to new Integral Fast Breeder Reactors and reprocess and reuse existing stocks of spent nuclear fuel. This will provide almost two orders of magnitude MORE energy then has already been extracted from this material. The resulting waste being now truly “spent” can be returned to the same mines from which it came and pose no future threat to either man or beast.

    Retrofit the coal and nat gas units to waste incinerators and mine all existing landfills for the energy and resources they contain. This addresses all issues arising from the production of municipal and industrial waste and existing landfills.

    Keep and maintain the hydro and set up the grid to accept any small generator that may want to connect to it with whatever environmentally friendly generation these individuals may want to use via “net metering” at market rates. This stimulates innovation, self reliance and community pride!

    Oh, I almost forgot the most obvious; conservation, conservation, conservation!

    This will provide all of Ontario with all of the affordable and clean electricity she will ever need forever while cleaning up a multitude of messes in the process.

    Unfortunately this plan isn’t subject to the same level of abject corruption as the current one!

    Which is another reason why it will never be done!


  12. Broke-by-Wind: “Industrial Green Energy” is a great phrase to use when anyone attempts to capture inconsistent and weak wind and solar energy at a large scale. There are consequences no different than any other industrial power producer though attempts have been made to promote large industrial wind and solar complexes as “clean” when in fact the industrialization of a larger land base has a greater impact to the environment and our wallets than other power sources. Look at the impact so far and hardly any useable power is produced at existing sites.

  13. Rick Coates, that was an important post.

    Quebec maximizes revenue. They can be contracted to provide supply, as Vermont does, but the rate will end up averaging a broader market price.

    Ontario will likely end up importing Quebec supply to meet peaks, at prices double or triple what Ontario will be begging them pay us for our excess production, in the middle of the night, as the reservoirs there fill.

    Not bad for the environment, but maybe not tolerable for Ontarians.

  14. Hey Zen…

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; as soon as something is industrialized be it underwater basket weaving, wind energy or asparagus, it ceases to have a net benefit on the environment!

    This is why I in fact SUPPORT green energy on a PERSONAL or perhaps a community level encouraged by net metering schemes at market rates. Those that can will for their own benefit and those that can’t won’t be paying the bill!

    One would think this obvious!



  15. Right on B.B.W!!!!!!

    Green technology MUST be on a personal or community level. Industrial green technology is irratic and the excess energy cannot be stored. That is a huge problem for industrial wind and solar! Micro units on the home owner level can be stored. We need to invest in cell technology and subsidize the cost so that it is affordable to everyone.

    Sadly, this model is likely never to work as government will loss their strangelhold on the hydro monopoly. It brings me to my knees with tears to think how obvious these decisions should be to make if your main goal was to benefit the people of Ontario……

    If the government only raised hydro rates for personal home use and did not go ahead with wind, solar, etc, etc, I am certain we would save over 10% of total usage by conservation. Most people react when it affects their wallets. Too bad building giant “money laundering” wind turbines that do not work is part of the plan.


    THAT made me belly-laugh!

    A more poignant statement was never made, a thousand words and then some!


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