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Here today from the Waterloo Region Record, a comment on the McGuinty government’s “green energy” program which was meant to bring jobs and prosperity to Ontario, while cleaning up our air (never mind that the air pollution in Southern Ontario is from cars and trucks).
The author rightly points out that the government continues to put a brave face on its policy, even as it disintegrates daily. What the author of this comment doesn’t know, is that the Ontario government continues to approve giant wind power projects weekly. In fact, this month has seen a record number of project approvals, including one at West Lincoln, which had passed a resolution at Council declaring itself not to be a “willing host” to wind power on this scale.
Here is the comment. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and donations are most welcome for legal and other costs at PO Box 3, North Gower ON K0A 2T0
A white flag for green energy
The Ontario Liberals are striving mightily to portray their disastrous green energy program as a rousing success. Do not believe them. It is an abject failure that inflated electricity costs, alienated rural communities and never lived up to its billing as the engine not just of more jobs but an entirely new manufacturing sector.
This is the context in which to understand last week’s announcement that the province had downsized a multi-billion dollar deal it signed with Samsung Group in 2010 to produce electricity from wind and solar projects.
Instead of giving the South Korean corporate giant $9.7 billion for 2,500 megawatts of electricity, Ontario will spend $6 billion for 1,369 megawatts. We pay less. We also get less. Samsung is cutting its investment in new green energy plants and components in Ontario from the $7 billion it originally pledged to $5 billion.
Although the government once boasted that Samsung would create 16,000 new manufacturing jobs, the number of new workers being talked about last week was just 900. That’s a flimsy foundation for an economic renaissance.
Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli defended the latest Samsung agreement as a way “to bend the cost curve (down) for ratepayers.” But even he can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. The best that can be said of his accomplishment is that the government’s ill-conceived and poorly delivered green energy crusade will leave ratepayers battered but not comatose.
Go back a few years and remember then-premier Dalton McGuinty’s grand and hubristic vision of turning this province into a green utopia. Making everyone pay far more for wind and solar energy than other sources of electricity was the key to his plan. Sure it would hurt consumers — but it would be worth it.
Not only would the McGuinty brain trust produce more energy for Ontario, it would do so in an environmentally friendly way. To top it all off, in the wake of the devastating recession of 2008-09 in which thousands of the province’s factory jobs were lost, the Liberals were going to create a thriving green energy industry that would sell to a global market.
It turns out McGuinty was a modern-day Don Quixote tilting at wind turbines. He was off on just about every premise. The World Trade Organization recently struck down the made-in-Ontario provision in McGuinty’s program.
The Liberals overestimated Ontario’s energy needs. The recession drove down demand for electricity and the province wound up with a surplus of it. We don’t need all the electricity Samsung was originally contracted to deliver.
The job boom never materialized either. As it happens, China can make solar panels far cheaper than Ontario. No wonder one of Canada’s most touted solar power firms, Arise Technology Corporation of Cambridge, went bankrupt last year while solar energy equipment maker Silken SA closed its Windsor operation.
And the bloated cost of this energy scheme will hurt for years to come. In 2011, Auditor General Jim McCarter estimated Ontario’s green energy policies were adding $220 million a year to the province’s already soaring hydro bills which were now among the most expensive in North America. No wonder the government scaled back its rates for green energy.
With McGuinty now gone and Kathleen Wynne in the premier’s office, the government is running away from the green energy program as fast as it can. The Samsung agreement has been overhauled. In future, priority will be given to wind turbine projects where there is community support.
For months, Ontarians have been justifiably outraged by the same government’s cavalier cancellation of two gas-fired electricity plants, arguably for political reasons and at a cost to the public of at least $585 million. The green energy program is as big a fiasco — and will cost more in the long-run.