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Letter: The myths and facts of Ontario energy policy

By: Letter to the Editor

 | Jun 12, 2014 - 9:54 AM |
On June 12, Ontarians will vote for the next government of Ontario.

Electricity prices are a hot button issue in this election. Recently, I read a package compiled by Yannick Trottier, president of the Engineers for Carbon Ethics, about electricity prices in Ontario. The myths and facts presented set the record straight and leave one with hope.

MYTH: Residential electricity prices are out of control.

FACT: Ontario's residential electricity is already less expensive than most Canadian provinces and territories, eastern US cities, and most of the developed world. None of the political parties, including the ruling Liberals, seem to be aware of this fact.

MYTH: Ontario is coal-free because of the Green Energy Act.

FACT: Ontario replaced most of its coal-fired electricity with refurbished nuclear energy and natural gas plants. Yet this myth gets repeated to serve political interest and not the interests of our citizens.

MYTH: The Green Energy Act is the main reasons we have to sell electricity at a loss.

FACT: Retiring coal-fired power plants is why we have to sell electricity to the US and Quebec. Nuclear power has consistently contributed the majority of negative bids, while wind and solar contribute about five per cent. Add to this the fact that nuclear energy is also very unstable and unreliable, not to mention costly.

MYTH: The fact that Ontario has to sell electricity to the US and Quebec is a sign of incompetence.

FACT: Paying to export our electricity is a typical feature of low-carbon electrical grids and is not a sign of incompetence. Nuclear, solar, run-of-the-river hydroelectric and to a lesser extent wind are inflexible sources of electricity and thus at times of low demand, we have to offload excess electricity onto other electrical grids.

MYTH: Natural gas is a bridge fuel between coal and renewable energy.

FACT: Natural gas may have a greater climate impact than coal.

IMPORTANT FACT: The social cost of coal far outweighs the costs of electricity exports. Coal-fired electricity once cost Ontario an estimated $4.4 billion annually in health care, environmental and financial impacts.

HOPE: Ontario can further reduce GHG's using Ontario's clean energy.

FACT: By enacting a Carbon Fee and Dividend policy, Ontario could tackle its largest emission sources: transportation and heating. A transparent carbon price would incentivize investment in clean tech. Returning revenue to households will help Ontarians invest into a low carbon future based on their personal needs.

Ontarians could purchase electric cars and geothermal heating and use Ontario's low carbon energy for power.

As citizens we need to better inform ourselves so that we make decisions based on properly researched facts, not on politically manipulated rhetoric to create great headlines.

Gerry Labelle

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