TheStar.com – Opinion
February 24, 2009
The environment and the economy are often seen as trade-offs: what is good for one is bad for the other.
Not so, says provincial Energy Minister George Smitherman, who yesterday introduced the Green Energy Act in the Ontario legislature. “With this single bold move, Ontario would join the ranks of global green power leaders like Denmark, Germany and Spain,” said Smitherman.
The legislation would sweep away regulatory roadblocks for wind turbines, solar farms and other “green” energy sources and promote conservation through an upgraded building code, higher standards for appliances and mandatory energy audits of homes for sale. The legislation also includes a “Buy Canadian” clause requiring domestic content in green energy projects.
Taken together, these measures – and the expansion of transmission lines to accommodate them – would generate 50,000 new jobs in the next three years alone, according to a government estimate. Smitherman called this a “conservative” forecast, but he offered no documentation to back it up.
Nonetheless, there is much to welcome in this initiative, as NIMBYist opposition to wind turbines and even solar farms has taken on alarming proportions in recent months.
Who will pay for the green energy projects? Mostly ratepayers – at a cost estimated by the government to be $1 a month on the average household electricity bill. This seems to be a lowball figure, given that the new transmission lines alone would cost $5 billion. Added to that would be the higher cost of wind and solar power, as compared to hydro or natural gas, and the expenses associated with the conservation measures. There is the potential for a consumer backlash against the government on this front.
Environmentalists are generally delighted by the government’s move, however. Rick Smith of Environmental Defence called it “bold” and “ambitious” and suggested it would make Ontario the top green jurisdiction in North America.
Standing alongside Smith and making similarly supportive comments was Ken Neumann, Canadian director of the United Steelworkers, whose members are hoping for spin-off jobs from green energy projects, such as the making of blades for wind turbines.
Some environmentalists remain offside, however, because the government will not commit to phasing out nuclear power as part of its green initiative.
The government has good reason to stick with nuclear power, which currently accounts for 50 per cent of our electricity. As existing plants reach the end of their life spans, new reactors will be needed, because wind and solar power aren’t going to fill the void. As Smitherman noted yesterday, the problem with wind is that it doesn’t always blow, especially on hot days when demand for electricity peaks.
Nuclear power also has the potential to tie the environment and the economy together. It has zero greenhouse gas emissions, and investing in new reactors would generate thousands of high-tech jobs, especially if our home-grown CANDU technology is the chosen design.
Green energy includes nuclear
TheStar.com – Opinion