|Back to Home||Editorail - September 1, 2011|
energy policy is about more than hydro ratesEditorial by Jeff Green
Energy policy will be a major theme in the coming provin-cial election. The Conservative Party has been making the cost of hydro a major thrust of their pre-election banter, but aside from a commitment to cutting the HST from hydro bills, and scrapping the Liberals’ Green Energy Act and smart hydro metres, we are still waiting for something from the Conservatives on the really big energy question fac-ing Ontario – how will the province’s future energy needs be secured?
According to the party website, the coal fired electrical plants that remain in operation in Ontario will finally be eliminated in 2014. As the statement on the website rightly points out, this is something that the Liberals have failed to do over eight years despite making numerous promises to do so.
However, the statement then says that the coal will be re-placed “either by natural gas or bio-mass.”
Now, 2014 is just over two years removed from the coming election, and my understanding is that decisions about energy production require a lot of technical understanding and research. Deciding between coal and bio-mass is not like deciding between Colgate or Crest toothpaste. I would think it would take a lot of time to make the adjustments and put the infrastructure in place to change fuel sources in electricity production. To say a change will take place in two years, and then reveal that the new fuel source has not yet been decided, makes me wonder what other aspects of this planned change are missing. What about the industrial processes needed? What about the supply lines for the new fuel? Is making electricity from natural gas and biomass the same?
All of this points to something else. The Liberals have been rather coy about how much they are willing to spend to ensure an adequate supply for nuclear power, which in the scenario of both the Liberals and the Conservatives will be the number one power source for Ontario electricity far, far into the future.
The costs of refurbishing old nuclear plants or building new plants are staggering, and they will have to be covered. If they are not covered by the price of electricity, they will have to be covered through another form of taxation.
The Conservatives have rightly pointed out how expen-sive the renewable energy initiatives that the Liberals have brought in through the Green Energy initiative are, but eliminating the Green Energy plan will only make Ontario need more nuclear power, which could prove just as expensive as any of the renewable initiatives.
The NDP pledges to cancel scheduled upgrades to the existing Ontario plants and says that the loss of supply will possible?
I am no expert in the cost of energy on a mass scale, but from what I’ve seen from the parties as this election campaign starts, the debate that is likely to be waged during this campaign will be based on rhetoric, ideology, and promises of cuts in the cost of hydro.
Energy is expensive, has huge environmental impacts, and is absolutely necessary to our modern way of life and our industrial economy.
It would be nice to think that the coming election campaign will bring with it some real information so we can choose a party that has the most environmentally and economically viable energy policy.
The Liberals have been tinkering with energy policy for the past eight years, and they have developed a mix of cost increases, nuclear upgrades, and renewable energy. It is a record that is very much open to attack for its various failings.
But thus far neither of the other parties have put anything on the table that makes me think they have done enough to earn the confidence of Ontarians.
While they seem to be concerned with winning an election, we should ask them to tell us what they are really planning to do.