Saturday, February 03, 2007

From Worst to First in Wind Generation

Energy Minister Dwight Duncan – opinion – From worst to first in wind generation

For current governments in both Ottawa and Toronto it has been very easy to blame the previous administrations for today’s problems.

Stephen Harper continuously points out that the Liberals under Paul Martin and Jean Chretien signed the Kyoto accord but never actually did anything about having Canada trying to reach Kyoto’s targets in reducing air pollution.

In Ontario the Liberals under Dalton McGuinty are doing the same by pointing out the previous Conservative administration’s failings. An example of this can be found in today’s Toronto Star in the Letters to the Editor where Energy Minister Dwight Duncan writes about the increasing move toward wind generation in Ontario.

Duncan claims, by way of a report written by a third party organization, that there was “mismanagement and poor planning by the former Conservative government between 1995 and 2002″ in terms of the investment of green power. But of course Duncan points out that the current McGuinty government is far superior in terms of green power.

Now to see how Duncan proves his point that the McGuinty government is superior in terms of green energy than the previous Conservative government:

1. “That government did not invest in clean, green power. Instead, it belched out more power from dirty coal plants. Under their watch, emissions rose by more than 125 per cent. …In three years, we have reduced Ontario’s reliance on coal plants by more than 32 per cent.”

This claim by Duncan is true in terms of statistics. However, sometimes statistics don’t tell the whole story. Between 1995 and 2002 the Conservative government was forced to shut down quite a few nuclear reactors at the Pickering, Darlington & Bruce power plants following a damning energy report into the workings of the former Ontario Hydro. Since the demand for electricity didn't meet the reduction in electrical generation, because of the shutting down of the reactors, something had to be done to keep the lights on in Ontario. The coal fired electrical generating plants were fired up to try and replace the lost generation of the nuclear reactors. Thus, air pollution from the coal plants increased because of the necessity to keep these plants running for longer periods of time.

Once the nuclear reactors were refurbished and brought back online, the coal fired plants could slowly be shut down again. Of course it took a long time to refurbish the nuclear reactors. By the time enough nuclear reactors had been brought back online, a change in administration had occurred and the Conservatives were voted out of office the Liberals took power. The Liberals were able to reduce the amount of pollution generated by the coal fired plants because the nuclear reactors could were back up and generating.

Duncan seems to conveniently to miss this piece of history in energy generation within Ontario in his letter. But of course if Duncan did include this fact, he wouldn't be able to blame the Conservatives for “mismanagement and poor planning.”

2. “We’ve gone from worst to first when it comes to wind generation.”

Congratulations from going from worst to first in terms of wind generation! Now perhaps the current government can start to shut down even more coal fired plants by 2007 through the use of wind power.

During the last provincial election of course, the Liberals promised to phase out coal power by 2007. Dwight Duncan was the energy minister who was forced to break this promise and delay it to 2009 and then until 2014. So the main question is, if Ontario is the leader in terms of wind generation, then how come the promise to close all the coal fired power plants has been pushed back on at least two occasions? Also, the current Liberal government have released an energy plan that calls for the continued and even an increased reliance on the nuclear power instead of putting a reliance on wind and solar power. The move towards wind and solar would probably provide an even more reliable source of electricity than nuclear. As the Conservative government found out nuclear cannot be totally reliable as the reactors will need to be shut down for long periods of refurbishment. But then again that wouldn’t be convenient at this period in time for the Liberals to point out.

3. “While so many other jurisdictions are expanding their reliance on coal, we’re reducing ours. Ontario stands as the only jurisdiction in the world not building more coal-fire generation, but phasing it out. We’ll eliminate coal as quickly as we can, balanced with the need to ensure a continued, reliable supply of electricity.”

The current government should be applauded for trying to reduce the reliance coal power as well as trying to balance the need for a supply of electricity. If the current government had of made good on its pledge to totally shut down the coal fired plants, the province would be in an energy crisis year round instead of during certain times in the summer.

Did the previous Conservative government consider a reliable supply of electricity during their time in government? Sure they did. That is why following the damning report on hydro that forced Ontario Hydro to close down quite a number of nuclear reactors, they fired up the coal powered plants even more. If the Conservatives had of not fired up the coal fired plants, an energy crisis would have ensued and Ontarians probably would have been in the dark for quite some time. But of course, again, Mr. Duncan conveniently forgets this.

After four years in power the Liberals should stop blaming the previous administration. Instead they should be concentrating on how to keep the promises they made during the previous provincial election. Conveniently, the Ontario Conservative party has been keeping track of the top fifty broken promises that the McGuinty government have done. So perhaps the Ontario Liberals should quit slagging the previous administration and concentrate on fixing their own shortcomings.

Are the federal Conservatives free of blame in terms of slagging the previous Liberal administartion? No they are not. If the federal Conservatives were any good at properly point out that “we are better than they were” in terms of reducing greenhouse gases, the would have come up with a better “made in Canada plan” for reducing greenhouse gases than the toothless plan that was introduced in 2006 to Parliament.

Thus, sometimes slagging the previous administration can seem to be politically expedient, but also can come back to bite you if you fail to either mention the reasons behind the statistics or come up with a better plan to improve upon the current situation.

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