The shift away from fossil fuels to renewables is not easy, nor cheap. Natural gas remains critical to the province’s electricity grid and isn’t going away anytime soon, as plans for two new gas turbines in Windsor demonstrate. Pictured is Capital Power’s East Windsor Cogeneration Centre. Photo credit: CHA
Following decades of fantastical assumptions and claims by climate alarmists about how Canada and other developed countries around the world were going to easily transition away from fossil fuels into the wonderful new world of renewables, reality is once more putting the lie to those statements. The most recent example of this is the news that some Ontario communities will be building new natural gas plants as they realize they cannot rely on costly, undependable renewable energy sources for their future needs.
This planned increase in energy from natural gas would be the first in Ontario since Dalton McGuinty infamously canceled two gas plants in 2011 for purely political reasons and at massive cost to taxpayers. At present, the new plants are expected to be built in the Windsor area. Windsor’s city council recently voted in favour of plans for two new gas turbines. Construction on the project is expected to start in late 2024, with the plant operational by December 2025.
Environmental groups have reacted predictably by claiming that new natural gas electricity generation in Ontario is unnecessary, as the province’s needs can be taken care of by renewable wind and solar power. They also state that the cost of renewables has fallen so much that fossil fuel-generated power is not only more polluting, but actually more expensive.
It is true that the cost of wind and solar have fallen a great deal in recent years, largely because of economies of scale in their production and technological advances. But the development of wind and solar in recent years involved a very large amount of government subsidy, which should be factored into their overall costs. Also, in Ontario ratepayers and taxpayers are still on the hook for the greatly inflated prices the McGuinty and Wynne governments agreed to with wind and solar companies in long term contracts that are still in force and won’t expire for years.
The true issue when debating the merits of gas versus wind and solar is not so much costs but reliability. Wind and solar power continue to be intermittent and unavailable when energy demand is greatest. This may change in future when battery technology improves, but it is very much our reality today no matter what the green activists claim. If this were not true, why would Germany and some other European countries be scrambling to procure additional gas energy to get them through the winter when these countries have massive amounts of wind and solar capacity?
Fantasies aside, the world still needs reliable, affordable fossil fuel energy and from all indications will continue to do so for decades to come. Ontarians should feel positive that the province is investing in reliable energy sources so we can avoid the brownouts, blackouts and energy shortages that have plagued other jurisdictions.
Another interesting recent development was the environmentalists’ claim that gas stoves were a cause of childhood asthma and should be eliminated. This understandably panicked many households, especially in the US where 40 per cent of households use gas stoves. As it turned out, the claim had virtually no factual basis as long as gas stoves were properly ventilated. This information was not new but had been well known for years. The panic was sufficiently severe that even President Biden had to come out with a public statement that the government had no intention of banning gas stoves.
What seems to have occurred was that this whole issue was orchestrated as a big media story by some environmental groups to give fossil fuels a bad name and try to prevent the installation of gas lines in new housing construction.
One by one, statements made by climate activists are being debunked by facts and real-world experience. It is truly unfortunate that so much misinformation and downright falsehoods have been used to promote their position. The reality is we all want to take actions that are truly beneficial for the environment, and the more these false claims are made, the less confidence people will have in any information on the climate and the substantive things we can do to reduce our environmental footprint.
The sooner all of the false claims can be disposed of the better, so we can all move on to practical solutions that will have a real, measurable positive impact.
She has published numerous articles in journals, magazines & other media on issues such as free trade, finance, entrepreneurship & women business owners. Ms. Swift is a past President of the Empire Club of Canada, a former Director of the CD Howe Institute, the Canadian Youth Business Foundation, SOS Children’s Villages, past President of the International Small Business Congress and current Director of the Fraser Institute. She was cited in 2003 & 2012 as one of the most powerful women in Canada by the Women’s Executive Network & is a recipient of the Queen’s Silver & Gold Jubilee medals.