Sunday, July 21, 2013

Wynne’s green power blues

WIND POWERED TURBINES SPIN ON A WIND FARM IN PORT BURWELL, A TOWN NEAR LONDON, ONT.
Considering the albatross it has become around their necks, Premier Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals must be wondering exactly when their green energy program turned into a political disaster.
No doubt they long for the good old days — specifically, Nov. 24, 2009 — when global warming guru Al Gore, speaking in Toronto at a gala dinner, bestowed his blessing on their former leader, Dalton McGuinty.
With McGuinty and his Canadian cheerleader, David Suzuki, looking on, Gore declared the premier’s Green Energy Act (GEA) was “widely recognized now as the single best green energy program on the North American continent.”
But that was then and this is now.
Today, McGuinty is long gone and the GEA sits like a dead weight on the Liberals.
Last week angry demonstrators — furious the GEA took away their right to any say in the location of huge, industrial wind turbines in their communities — showed up to protest while Wynne was trying to jump-start the by-election campaign of London West Liberal candidate Ken Coran.
Last month, Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli announced the Liberals were slashing almost in half the crown jewel of their green energy strategy, their 2010 deal with Samsung to produce 2,500 megawatts of wind and solar power.
That was a tacit admission their program has been a failure, loading up the province with expensive, unreliable and inefficient power we don’t need because we have an energy surplus.
Last week, in a desperate bid to change the channel, Chiarelli announced the Liberals are going to invest in energy conservation, as if this is a new idea.
In his 2011 report on the Liberals’ renewable energy program, former auditor general Jim McCarter concluded they were wasting billions of dollars — paid by taxpayers and hydro consumers — because they implemented it without any business plan, even ignoring the advice of their own experts.
The Liberals’ boast the GEA would create 50,000 jobs by the end of 2012 is in ruins. There are only 31,000, most temporary construction jobs.
Worse, McCarter noted that if Ontario’s experience is consistent with other jurisdictions, two to four jobs will be lost in other sectors of the economy for every green job created, because of higher electricity costs.
For all their exorbitant cost, wind and solar power contribute only a tiny fraction of Ontario’s power needs and, even to accommodate this small (but growing) amount, the rest of the hydro system has to operate less efficiently.
That’s because renewable energy is unpredictable, given that the wind doesn’t always blow, the sun doesn’t always shine and even when the wind does blow, it has to blow at the right speeds.
Under the Liberals’ green energy program, we have to pay for wind and solar power first, even when we don’t need it, meaning cheaper forms of green energy such as hydro power have to be dumped or sold at a loss to Quebec or the U.S.
The Liberals’ gas plant scandal, in which they wasted at least $585 million of our money, is a result of their green energy strategy.
The Oakville and Mississauga gas plants, which the Liberals cancelled leading up to the 2011 election, were being built in part to support wind power.
That’s because wind has to be backed up by fossil fuel energy, since it can’t produce base load power to the grid on demand.
The Liberals have ignored complaints from thousands of Ontario residents about health problems caused by noise and vibration from industrial wind turbines, accusing them of NIMBYism (Not-In-My-Back-Yard) syndrome.
But when it came to saving five Liberal seats in the last election, they cancelled the Mississauga and Oakville gas plants, at enormous cost, because of health concerns raised by residents in those communities.
All of which leads to the question of why the Liberals continue to cling to their disastrous green energy policy — which cost them up to 10 seats in the last election due to the fury of rural residents over having wind turbines imposed on them.
Particularly so, given that the environmental benefits of green energy could have been achieved by properly maintaining nuclear and natural gas plants, in order to replace coal-fired electricity, without going into the multibillion-dollar boondoggle of wind and solar power.
The answer, of course, is that the Liberals have gone too far to admit they were wrong.