The great blackout of 2003 that affected Ontario and a large part of the U.S., costing billions of dollars, was a wake-up call for the Ontario government to act. For decades governments of all political stripes put off needed work on the electricity infrastructure.
Since then, the Liberal government invested $70 billion, guaranteeing a strong and reliable system for now, and for the future. This investment had resulted in:
- Fewer blackouts and brownouts, a must for our strong economy;
- The closure of all coal-fired plants – no more smog days, fewer early deaths – which represents an annual $3 billion/year in health-care savings (those plant closures also represent the single biggest step towards fighting climate change for any North American jurisdiction);
- The infrastructure and extra capacity for future use by electric vehicles and the coming battery revolution.
This overdue investment has necessitated higher electricity prices, but those prices are still in the median range for North America. Some residents, especially in rural areas, saw large increases and spoke up, and the Wynne government listened and responded by spreading out the costs over time, which makes sense since this investment is meant to serve Ontarians for decades to come. It’s something other regions have yet to do. And statements to the effect that Ontario’s electricity costs are among North America’s highest are utterly false. Click here to see the facts on electricity prices.
What about “curtailment” – that excess electricity we have to dump because it is not needed? Yes, curtailment happens, but what the critics won’t tell you is that it’s something every grid has to do. Every watt of electricity must be consumed somewhere within an instant of being generated lest it start burning out equipment. To achieve that very complex balancing act, grids must rely on a variety of generating sources which differ in the minimum times required to bring them online when needed and take them down again when not. Ontario is more reliant than most on nuclear stations for our “base load” power. When total demand drops below that level, the excess must be exported at whatever the going spot rate happens to be at that moment even if that’s below cost, because the alternative of shutting a nuclear plant down at a moment’s notice just isn’t feasible. Anyone who claims that they could save money by eliminating those sales is either being dishonest or truly doesn’t know what they are talking about.
What about the cancelled Mississauga gas power plants that cost $1 billion? Yes, approving them without adequately considering potential public opposition in that community was a mistake by Kathleen Wynne’s predecessors, one for which she apologized. But it’s worth remembering that all the opposition parties had also vowed to cancel those plants so would have incurred the same penalty. And, compare that $1 billion against the $70 billion in overall investments, and the $3 billion in savings each from health care costs and early deaths. The overall strategy ensures that our economy has the power it will need, and that you will have cleaner, dependable power.