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LETTER: Building new natural gas plants ‘makes no sense’

In AWARE News Network
Feb 7th, 2023
Letter writer calls on Ontarians to speak out against Doug Ford’s ‘ridiculously wrong proposal’ to build natural gas generation plantsFrom BarrieToday, Letter to the Editor Feb 7 2023 Stock photo

Thursday’s BarrieToday had a story titled, “Local residents fuming over ‘ridiculous’ Enbridge Gas bills.” I certainly sympathize with local homeowners who are struggling to keep warm and still pay utility bills that have risen so quickly.

If I could, however, I’d like to connect this local homeowner story with the story of what Premier Ford’s Progressive Conservative government is currently proposing — and doing — to increase electricity generation in the province — proposing to build natural gas generating plants. Not only building them, but promising to pay the owners of these plants in future even if the plants need to be shut down to reduce emissions.

Perhaps the premier can explain — and it would be helpful if MPP Jill Dunlop could also explain — why the government is taking these steps when cheaper — and less-polluting — sources are not only available but could be brought online faster than these gas plants.

A Toronto Star article (“Ontario’s new gas plants will cost more than wind and solar, report says. So why are we building them?” by Marco Chown Oved) on Thursday sent out a message of concern about Ford’s proposal. The article notes a number of points that are worthy of repetition as they are facts that every citizen of Ontario — every voter in Ontario — should be aware of.

First of all, wind and solar generation, when paired with battery storage, have no emissions and currently “cost less than the type of natural gas-fired plants the Ontario government is proposing to build.” The report the writer refers to shows “that wind and solar, when combined with storage, can do the same job for far less.”

In addition, when the future costs are weighed, the cost of natural gas is predicted to go up while the costs for wind and solar, having already dropped quickly over the past few years, are predicted to continue to decrease.

Environmental Defence predicts that Ontario’s plan “will cause electricity emissions to soar by over 400 per cent by 2030 and cancel out half of the emissions reductions we’ve achieved by phasing out the use of dirty coal.” Canada has targeted a 40 to 45 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030. Ontario’s plans for gas plants will make reaching this target impossible. So, why are these new plants being allowed to be built?

Ontario could be purchasing emissions-free, hydro-generated electricity from Quebec. Queen’s Park opted “to end a power purchase agreement with Quebec last year,” notes the Star article. Why?

Think natural gas is expensive right now? How much will it cost homeowners after Ford’s government permits these ridiculously expensive gas plants to be built?

Of even more concern to all of us should be the Ford government’s promise that natural gas plant operators cannot lose by building these plants. The article notes that, “In order to reassure investors, Premier Doug Ford’s government has guaranteed payment to the new gas plants, even if they have to shut down and produce no power.” As a result, Environmental Defence notes in its message, “This means that ratepayers — people that use electricity in Ontario — could be paying fossil gas companies long after they stop providing us with electricity.”

What? Is the Ford government so in love with the private-sector fossil-fuel providers that it will promise them millions of dollars in revenue even if or when they are doing nothing for the province?

Investing in new gas plants makes no sense for Ontario. They make no sense economically. They make no sense environmentally. And they make no sense for the consumers of electricity in this province — people like the Novoskys, who are facing increased costs to keep warm.

An outcry is needed across this province. An outcry against this ridiculously wrong proposal. Call the premier’s office. Call your MPP.

Come on, Premier Ford. It’s time for you and our government to recognize that fossil-free energy generation is real — and cheaper than gas, oil or any other source.

Why not try it? For the good of our health and our pocketbooks. And for the good of Ontario.

Fred Larsen

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