Thoughts on the Ontario Green Energy Act

Disclaimer.  I was exhausted after a long, hard, but very good week when I wrote this.  So forgive me if I ramble or if my tone wanders.

I’m in the Ottawa airport waiting for a flight home to Toronto.  My main reason for coming to Ottawa was to hear George Smitherman, Ontario’s Minister of Energy and Infrastructure, talk about the proposed Ontario Green Energy Act.  I was a true believer in this before I heard him speak the first time last November, and the more I read or hear about this piece of legislation the more convinced I am.

Too often, politicians use lofty sounding rhetoric, but this really will make Ontario a  North American leader in renewable energy, conservation and energy policy.  This will create jobs in clean technology and lead to less carbon emissions and pollution in Ontario.  If we’re lucky, this will prove to be a model too tempting not to copy.

It’s also a politically risky move that includes controversial and in some cases, extremely unpopular provisions, like anti-NIMBY policies and more natural gas fired power plants.  These are not elements of a “crowd pleaser” act.  People like to use language like “the importance of not overruling local planning decisions” and “not consulting the community”, but it’s just NIMBYism dressed up.  I’m sympathetic to people who don’t want a wind farm or natural gas power plant in their community, but Toronto is downwind from the dirtiest smokestack in the western world.

Really, Nanticoke is that bad.  From a a summary of the CEC Taking Stock 2004 report (quote from this PDF):

In Canada, a single facility was responsible for eight percent of all toxic air emissions – Ontario Power Generation’s Nanticoke Generation Station. The largest power station of its kind in North America, Nanticoke’s eight 500 megawatt generators produce a total of 4,000 megawatts of power at this 30 year old facility.

The Nanticoke plant was also responsible for the second largest onsite air releases of mercury – some 226 kilograms (497 pounds) – by a Canadian electrical facility…

Like I said, I can understand why people might not want a power station near their house, but when you’re planning a provincial wide power grid, and you want to shut down something that big, you’re not going to make everyone happy.

In a reply to a comment on a previous blog post,  I said this energy act looked like the “least bad” option.  There are bad parts, there will be unintended consequences and negative effects, and in some cases there are even things I hate, but at the end of the day, I’m going to withdraw that statement.  I think this is a good energy act.  It will lead to better conditions in Ontario for green energy entrepreneurs, for companies serious about green energy projects, and for people looking to migrate into a sustainable industry.

And we’ll get to breathe less vaporized mercury for the privilege.  Sounds good to me.


One response to “Thoughts on the Ontario Green Energy Act

  1. Pingback: More Good News for Ontario Renewable Energy « The Unofficial Morgansolar Weblog