Friendly communities key to energy infrastructure expansion in Ontario: gas plants the wake-up call

The gas plant fiasco in Ontario is the direct outcome of the Green Energy Act (GEA). Natural gas is portrayed as “clean” by those who sell it, even though between midnight and nine a.m. this morning provincial gas plants had dumped more than 15,000 metric tons of pollution into our air (see Table 2 on the left for a running total of the pollution emitted by fuel type in Ontario). The total for that day, February 28, ended up being over 43,500 tons. “Clean” natural gas is the Greeks inside the Trojan Horse of wind. Drive around the province of Ontario, and you will see hundreds of enormous wind turbines. These hundreds of turbines are the Trojan Horse that was used by the natural gas lobby and its paid mouthpieces like the Ontario Clean Air Alliance and its allies in the self-styled “green” movement to fool Ontario into thinking that coal could be replaced by wind.

There is natural gas lurking inside the Trojan Horse of wind power. Wind power is a public relations ploy, designed to fool people into thinking their electricity is clean. Because wind is inherently unable to provide reliable, cheap electricity, other sources are necessary to provide it. Wind power supporters prefer gas, even though gas is a carbon-belching fossil fuel.

Well, that myth has now been exposed in the glare of the gas plant fiasco. Wind cannot power the province; it is too inefficient and unreliable (see article). So, to keep Ontario running, the government needed generators that actually work when you turn them on. Because it was so welded electorally to the “green” movement, the government could not go with nuclear, which powers most of the province and has proven over four decades of smooth operation to be the cleanest and cheapest non-hydro source we have. Therefore, to the delight of the OCAA and its gas-industry clients, the government put gas inside the Trojan Horse of wind.

That has proved to be a total disaster. The government had no choice but to build new gas plants, and fast. It tried to force them into communities. In some cases, such as on the Holland Marsh, it succeeded—with the help of “green” allies like Environmental Defence—in browbeating unwilling locals into accepting a pollution-belching gas plant. But in at least three cases—Woodbridge, Oakville and Mississauga—it failed. And failed spectacularly, in the cases of Oakville and Mississauga.

The Green Energy Act is why Ontario’s current political situation is what it is. Wind power cost the governing Liberals their majority government in the October 2011 election. The gas plants fiasco forced the then-premier, Dalton McGuinty, to prorogue the legislature and resign. A formidable and once-admired public servant, McGuinty is now gone and his name is about to be dragged through the mud of the gas fiasco.

There is strong evidence that the current premier, Kathleen Wynne, realizes the sheer size and weight of the albatross that is the GEA. The IESO, which runs Ontario’s grid, was recently reported as wanting to change the grid rules which give wind power pride of place in dispatch order. The premier has acknowledged that the GEA rules which force wind into unwilling rural communities is flawed. She also acknowledged that the entire issue of siting energy infrastructure is fraught with peril.

Oh, how she must pine for a friendly community in which to site much-needed new energy infrastructure. If she would only gaze eastward along Lake Ontario, she would see Clarington, home of the mighty Darlington nuclear station. And if she would for a moment close her ear to the noise coming from the self-interested phony green crowd, she might hear the the quiet approval of the silent majority in and around Clarington for the needed upgrade to Darlington, which will reach its mid-life in 2015. That upgrade would create thousands of high paid jobs.

And she would also hear the quiet, well informed approval for new nuclear reactors in all of Ontario’s current nuclear host communities.

There is a qualitative difference between this approval and the noisy hyperbole that emanates from the opponents of nuclear. The current premier’s government heeded the noisy opponents, and it got the gas plants fiasco. It would not hurt to at least listen to the quiet supporters.

These supporters are intelligent and articulate, in every nuclear host community. Meredith Angwin, publisher of the excellent Yes Vermont Yankee, has written many articles featuring the supporters of Vermont’s only nuclear plant. They are worth reading. As I said, there is a qualitative difference in the rhetoric of pro-nuclear people and opponents. Meredith and her husband George have published an e-book that compiles Meredith’s accounts of Yankee supporters. She writes about it in today’s ANS Nuclear Cafe; have a read.

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7 years ago

The people in the Holland Marsh did not “accept” the gas plant. It was imposed on them. It is a conservative riding so the liberals did not do a seat saver deal there.

7 years ago

Steve: Thank you for the kind words and the shout-out about our new e-book, Voices for Vermont Yankee!

7 years ago

“Prorogue” is a word that Americans seldom see!

7 years ago

Steve Aplin wrote:
The IESO, which runs Ontario’s grid, was recently reported as wanting to change the grid rules which give wind power pride of place in dispatch order.

The problem is that wind power is not dispatchable. It cannot be counted upon to put the desired amount of megawatts into the grid when they are needed. Wind power does often get pride of place in the dispatch order, but this is done via political action, not by wind power winning that place on its own merits.

Milton Caplan
7 years ago

Great post Steve. Sorry I missed you at the CNA.

With a renewed interest in climate change in North America, will there be effective policy to achieve lower carbon emissions or will we continue to have the results you are speaking about?

While most would agree that pricing carbon is an important tool to incentivize reduced carbon use; we still have significant government subsidies for fossil fuels , or effectively a negative price on carbon.

7 years ago
Reply to  Milton Caplan

we still have significant government subsidies for fossil fuels , or effectively a negative price on carbon

That explains why there are waiting lists to get a natural gas hookup, with new residential developments waiting years for trunk lines to come to them (especially if they are in a district that voted wrong).

It explains why you can’t just drive up to a gasoline station with two 40-L jerrycans and expect to get both of them, and your car’s permanent tank, filled. There are forms to fill in. It helps if you know someone.

James Greenidge
7 years ago

It boggles me how people who profess a passion for a pristine environment and clean air and scenery would willingly prefer noisy landscape rapers and known pollution/Co2 producers over a low-footprint near zero-polluter. Radio-phobia is that powerful over facts and reason! Public nuclear education sure has its work cut out for them!

Re: “Drive around the province of Ontario, and you will see hundreds of enormous wind turbines.”

There’s a well executed video ( ) that ought play out video screens on the Toronto transit systems to nip the quaint idealistic green romance towards these monstrous whirligigs in reality’s bud!

James Greenidge
Queens NY

Jon Boone
7 years ago

Great post, Steve. About time this news got out. A few years ago, I wrote the following in a much larger paper (Overblown) about the limitations of wind technology, which could service as a prolog for your fine piece:

“With over 100,000 massive wind turbines around the world—35,000 plus in North America—not one coal plant has closed due to the installation of any wind projects. Nor is there empirical evidence that there is less coal burned per unit of electricity produced as a specific consequence of wind. Ontario has long promised to retire (but has never been able to do so) all its coal plants. Officials tout that they will be replaced by wind. To hedge its renewable energy bet, the Ontario government is building natural-gas facilities as insurance against new wind projects. In other words, the province expects to replace coal with natural gas, not wind. The latter could not exist without either hydro, which presently provides the province about 25% of total generation (wind is about one percent) or flexible natural gas generators. Projections by the Ontario Power Authority depend upon planned conservation savings and natural gas, not wind, as a means of displacing coal. Similarly, boasts by the former governor of Kansas that her state would not approve a new coal plant because of its increasingly expansive wind projects conveniently forgot to mention how the state had planned to increase its importation of natural gas–at higher cost. Many new coal plants are in the offing, both in the United States and throughout the world—even in Kansas, since the new governor, “recognizing the need for baseload power,” struck a deal allowing one new coal plant in the western part of the state.”