Gas plant $1.1 billion cancellation fee: the cheapest part of “green” energy

Nearly a year ago, some high profile political careers ignominiously ended in Ontario. The province’s headlong embrace of “green” energy policies drove the former premier, Dalton McGuinty, from office. A couple of his ministers, including the energy minister, quit soon thereafter. Green energy laid these politicians low because green energy—mainly wind and solar—is simply unreliable and not capable of powering an electricity grid. It therefore requires a backup source that can power a grid. In Ontario, the backup source preferred by the “environmental” lobby is natural gas.

Running an electricity system is no small thing. Everything in Ontario—everything—depends on electricity. Our province literally does not exist without electricity. So the drive for “green” energy involved not just forcing the construction of huge inefficient wind turbines. It also involved forcing, quickly, the construction of new gas plants. This was a radical, and enormously expensive and disruptive, move. The former premier, and former energy minister, and several other now-former cabinet ministers, know from hard personal experience just how disruptive it was. They lost their careers because they went full-bore for “green” energy as conceived by the “environmental” lobby. Their legacies are now in tatters.

And for what? The drive to force wind and gas into unwilling Ontario communities was totally unnecessary. It was, let us remember, part of the Brave New Clean Electricity World. Well, Ontario has for the better part of a century been a leader in clean electricity: our system was originally built around hydroelectric dams. More recently, Ontario dramatically expanded its generating capacity, by investing heavily in the most efficient electricity generating source the world has ever known: nuclear energy. Neither hydro nor nuclear involve fossil fuel combustion. Both are far cleaner, and far less expensive, than the wind and gas combination. For an idea of how less expensive, have a look at what the “green” energy part of the provincial Global Adjustment cost Ontario rate payers in 2012. The “green” energy part is represented by the GA-OPA row in the 2012 figures. Add the monthly figures up, and you get more than $3.5 billion. From a single year. (A big part of that was for Bruce Power, which in my view is a worthwhile charge since that plant provides about a third of Ontario’s power. But the bulk of it, i.e. more than $1.1 billion, is for “green” energy: wind, solar, and natural gas.)

Remember that most of Ontario’s electricity comes from three tiny patches of land: the Pickering, Darlington, and Bruce nuclear plants. All three of these stations could physically fit, easily, into the territory occupied by the Wolfe Island wind farm. And they produce many, many times as much power as Wolfe Island does. And do so reliably: hour after hour, day after day, month after month, year after year.

None of this was unknown by the aforementioned politicians. Which begs the question: why did they so enthusiastically embrace “green” energy, which, it was obvious from the beginning, is so inefficient and problematic and utterly unnecessary?

The answer to this question is fascinating. The aforementioned politicians appear to have fallen for the pop culture notion that “green” energy is actually good for the planet.

They fell for the “green” energy phantasm, then fell on their swords. And for what.

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Steve Foster
10 years ago

I am not so sure they fell for the BS sold by Amory Lovins and other green-washing fossil-gas hucksters who promote the lie that wind and solar and conservation can do it all. Being politicians, they likely were doing what they believed would be popular and listened to that Siren Song: they were only concerned with what would appear green to get votes. Whether or not it was ACTUALLY green wasn’t as much of a concern.

To quote the great, inimitable Richard Feynman: “For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled”

The lesson learned should be this, given that the careers of Dalton McGuinty and George Smitherman are over: the advice of engineers and scientists should take precedence over lobbyists and PR men when it comes to energy policy.

10 years ago

Well, fossil fuel tax revenue is to their staff as water-dissolved oxygen is to goldfish: they may not acknowledge its existence — they may say, as many foolishly or dishonestly do, that fossil fuels are *subsidized* — but they never forget to do that thing with their lips.

But that may not explain gas-greenness on the part of *provincial* public servants. Are there any provincial taxes on natural gas?

C. Bayne
10 years ago

“Which begs the question: why did they so enthusiastically embrace “green” energy, which, it was obvious from the beginning, is so inefficient and problematic and utterly unnecessary?”

You have rightly ascribed the gas pains to the consumption of green marketing PR but this symptom is global and must lead to the observation that the flatulence is ideologically generated hence the religious fervor which ignores reality.

Agenda 21 promises planetary salvation so the ends justify the means.
search Agenda 21 Explained.

James Greenidge
10 years ago

What’s the story behind the obvious glee the Globe has here?

Whrn is the nuclear industry and communinty going to start to fight back and hawk nuclear’s virtues to counter antis and windvane pols???

James Greenidge
Queens NY

Steve Foster
10 years ago

I agree – everyone in the industry needs to go on the attack. Take out full page ads, buy airtime on TV, submit editorials to all major papers (give media an incentive: put some serious $ on the table for regular advertising over the next 12 months). This is serious and it is time to take it to the people and not let the fossil fuel pushers get away with it.