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The elephant at Queen’s Park this week is George Smitherman.
The political ghost of the former health minister turned energy minister turned super infrastructure minister has haunted everything from the auditor’s report on the Ornge air ambulance scandal (Smitherman was at the helm of the health ministry when it started) to Energy Minister Chris Bentley’s announcement lowering the price the government will pay for wind and solar under its feed-in tariff (FIT) program.
The Green Energy Act (GEA) was Smitherman’s baby. It offered ludicrously high prices to producers of wind and solar power and guaranteed high-priced alternatives would be sold into the grid before cheaper traditional energy from Niagara Falls and nuclear plants.
Worse, costly green energy sent hydro bills skyrocketing.
That massive impact of the GEA shows up disastrously on the electricity bills of mid-sized businesses, many of which are getting squeezed out of business by something called the “global adjustment” – a line item that’s adding millions to their hydro bills.
Rural Ontario has been devastated by the GEA. Small towns and villages had massive wind farms foisted on them over vigorous objections. They’re a blight on the countryside and instead of bringing employment to hard-pressed areas, many of them are owned and operated outside this province.
Bentley announced Thursday future wind turbine and solar projects will be approved on a points-system basis.
New projects will get extra points if they’ve engaged the community and the municipality in the process and if they involve a school, hospital or university.
“We haven’t done everything people asked us to do, but we have made a number of steps in terms of where these projects can be located in the future that I think reflects that we’ve been listening,” Bentley said in an interview.
That’s not good enough, says Tory critic
Vic Fedeli. Unwilling host communities could still have turbines foisted on them.
Some of the cheapest green energy in the world is generated at Niagara Falls – and we’re throwing it away.
We have an excess of electricity. You can’t store it, so the only way to get rid of it is to spill water that could be used to generate electricity for two cents a kilowatt-hour at Niagara.
Instead, until now we paid more than
80 cents a kw/h for solar and 13.5 cents for wind. Bentley announced Thursday those prices are going down – to 54.9 cents for solar and 11.5 for wind. That’s still unaffordable and will still push up electricity costs.
Fedeli says the government has added 1,700 kw of costly renewables, claiming they were reducing coal use. That’s not true.
“In fact, coal use was up 28% in 2010,” he said. “For every megawatt of wind and solar that’s been added, clean renewable water power has been reduced by that amount.”
The Liberals allowed $300 million worth of electricity that could have been generated at Niagara Falls to go down the drain. As well, nuclear plants have been taken off line, he said.
“At the very time that we need to be strengthening Ontario’s economy, the Liberal government has doubled down on the wind and solar projects, which have killed jobs throughout Ontario,” he said.
There’s a trio of Smitherman elephants in the room: Green energy. eHealth. Ornge.
Any parade of pachyderms has a couple of clowns running behind, cleaning up the mess.
And this week, that sad task fell to Bentley and Health Minister Deb Matthews. They were out there every day – shovelling the manure.
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