Ontario plans for ‘green’ energy completely unrealistic

New power plants and transmission equipment will occupy about 14 times as much land as Toronto, report says

By Ran­dall Den­ley, National Post, Jan. 6, 2023

The Ontario government’s spending on inducements for the electric car industry has been something to behold. The most recent was a $259-million gift to GM Canada, to help it retool an Ingersoll plant to make electric commercial vans.

That was preceded by $513 million in provincial money to further electric car development at Stellantis plants in Windsor and Brampton, and to develop a battery research centre. Earlier, Ford Motor Co. got $295 million to make electric cars in Oakville.

The province is also putting “hundreds of millions” into a $4-billion battery plant being built by Stellantis in Windsor. The government wouldn’t cite an exact figure so as not to prejudice negotiations with other corporations lined up for handouts. A Belgian battery maker is building a $1.5-billion plant near Belleville with substantial, but again, unspecified provincial support.

Ontario is not alone in its enthusiasm for funding the auto industry and its electric car future. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is writing cheques of about the same size as those cut by Ontario. That’s no surprise. Liberals know that if you want economic growth, you have to go out and buy it.

Rather than pouring money into electric-car companies, the provincial government would be smart to start setting it aside for the massive cost of upgrading Ontario’s power generation and transmission system to handle Ontario’s plan to live better electrically.

Cost of ‘greening’ Ontario’s power system will be enormous

A December report from the Independent Electricity System Operator put some figures on the cost of expanding and greening Ontario’s power system.

The biggest one is $400-billion to build new infrastructure between now and 2050. That doesn’t include the cost of land. The report estimates that all the new power plants and transmission equipment will occupy about 14 times as much land as Toronto. It will also require a six-fold increase in the skilled workforce required to build power plants and transmission lines. Oh, and the province will also have to count on advances in power storage and hydrogen technology.

If everything works out just right, Ontario might meet its twin goals of decarbonizing power generation and supplying future demand that will result from the elimination of fossil fuels for vehicles and building heating.

One thing is certain: This enormous power expansion will require big government subsidies or dramatically higher power bills, probably both.

Either way, Ontarians will pay. All this from a provincial government already so concerned about power bills that it will spend $118 billion over the next 20 years to subsidize power costs, according to the province’s Financial Accountability Office.

Some of the cost to consumers will be offset by eliminating gasoline and home heating fuel costs, but how much? The huge capital costs of the new electricity system make the switch much more than changing from one fuel to another.

Surely the provincial Conservatives haven’t forgotten that they spent years railing against the green energy plans of their predecessors the Liberals, arguing that the costs exceeded the benefits. Now, they are poised to repeat the mistake.

Ran­dall Den­ley is an Ot­tawa jour­nal­ist, au­thor and for­mer On­tario PC can­di­date.

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