"We should not be gambling with Ontario's economic future" said Don MacKinnon, President of the Power Workers' Union. "Closing the coal stations to rely more on conservation, wind power and natural gas generation without any objective analysis of the reliability and cost impacts is folly. There are better ways to build a reliable system and improve the environment; Ontario's plan does neither," he added.
MacKinnon made his comments as the Power Workers launched their new, updated Better Energy Plan website at www.abetterenergyplan.ca.
"The PWU's website is intended to inform Ontarians about our electricity challenges and recommend some solutions," announced MacKinnon. "We are also distributing our PowerWorks newsletter to decision-makers across the province, along with a compact disc containing our submissions to the Ontario Power Authority (OPA). Both contain PWU views and recommendations on how to achieve a Better Energy Plan and a better environment for Ontario."
Mr. MacKinnon explained that before it was elected in 2003, the current Ontario government unrealistically committed to close Ontario's coal stations by 2007 - more than 20 percent of the province's generating capacity.
"The closure commitment is now delayed until 2014, but it's still bad policy," said MacKinnon. "Investing in proven clean-coal technology at these stations would improve the environment immediately, provide large quantities of reasonably priced electricity and enable Ontario to become a global leader in this technology. With the export of our expertise we can help other countries reduce their emissions and gain economic benefits," he added. Growing electricity demand, the closing of the coal stations and aging nuclear plants means Ontario must build as much generation in the next 20 years as currently exists in British Columbia and Alberta combined.
Mr. MacKinnon noted this is a huge and costly challenge that requires a realistic plan, not political platitudes.
Conservation is worthwhile, but experience shows it takes money and time to realize meaningful conservation targets. Wind power requires large taxpayer subsidies and expensive transmission investments. Also, wind power is frequently not available during periods of peak demand and is facing growing public opposition to its visual impacts on the landscape. A rapid shift to natural gas generation means dramatic price increases for both electricity and residential gas heating.
"No political party is without blame, but Ontario's electricity system is now at a cross-roads. The next government will implement an electricity plan for the next 18 years," continued MacKinnon. "It's critical that all candidates know what the real risks of an inadequate plan are for Ontario's economy and standard of living."
For more than 60 years the PWU has been involved in the province's energy policy discussions. During the last two years, the PWU has expressed its views and positions in 14 distinct and comprehensive submissions to the OPA and undertaken a broad outreach program to engage key stakeholders in the industry and decision-makers, as well as the general public. These PWU initiatives have culminated in the development of the Better Energy Plan.
Ontario's manufacturing sector has lost more than 150,000 jobs since 2002, in part to rising energy costs. Since 2003, Ontario's electricity prices have risen nearly 30 percent, and they are predicted to double by 2015.
"It's time to ask where all political parties stand on the tough questions," MacKinnon added. "Ontario needs real solutions if we want to have a competitive economy and a solid standard of living. This begins with a reliable and affordable electricity supply."