Ontario Cleans Its Hands Of Coal

by Matthew Klippenstein.

Canada’s “little Germany” has cut per-capita emissions 24% since 1990.

Parliament buildings in Ontario, Canada. Image Credit: Shutterstock
Parliament buildings in the city of Ottawa, province of Ontario, Canada. Image Credit: Shutterstock

The Ontario government announced on Friday that it will introduce legislation next week to ban the burning of coal and the building of new coal plants. The Canadian province expects to have completely outgrown coal by 2014, thanks to a combination of efficiency, nuclear, natural gas and an ambitious renewables program – and to save C$4.4 billion per year (US $4.2 billion) in “externalities” like health costs, from having done so.

The province will end this year on a symbolic high-note as well, completing the conversion of its enormous Nanticoke Generation Station to run on biomass. The coal plant was at one point the single-biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada, providing 4 GW of baseline electricity. Half its generating units have been decommissioned in recent years, and the station now operates as a “peaker” plant — idling for most of the day, and only ramping up in times of high electricity demand.

Ontario being a net exporter of electricity – it sold 10 TWh of excess electricity last year, about enough to power Hawaii – the announcement is great news for the lungs of families there, and in the surrounding provinces and states. Going forward, Ontarian children will only have to endure “second-hand smog” from coal burnt in nearby Michigan.

Digging into the statistics*, CleanTechnica found that from 1990 to 2011, Ontario’s greenhouse gas emissions dropped 3 percent – achieving only about half of Canada’s Kyoto commitment. But the province’s growth in the past 20 years means its per-capita emissions actually dropped a full 24 percent. Though the province had largely weaned itself off coal by then, the full phase-out should push the per-capita emissions reductions past the one-quarter mark (25 percent).

By comparison, Germany’s Energiewende has powered a 27 percent emissions reduction since 1990, and its stable population means per-capita emissions are down about 28 percent.

Canada’s “little Germany”

Referring to Ontario as a “little Germany” purely on account of its environmental progress would be to underestimate the parallels between the two.

Ontario is Canada’s manufacturing centre, and achieved its emissions reductions even as it began a nine-year run as North America’s top auto manufacturing jurisdiction. (That the province’s auto sector achieved this with high-skill, high-wage, unionized workers, despite lower-cost labour elsewhere, compares well with the German automotive experience.)

And though Ontario doesn’t dominate Canadian Confederation to the extent that Germany does the European Union, its size and influence mean it can be considered first among provinces; it hosts the country’s capital, after all.

The province’s Green Energy Act was partially modelled on the successful policies that drove the German Energiewende. Small surprise, then, that its implementation was only partially smooth. Several wind farm projects located near uncompensated individuals and communities, encountered fierce resistance from the aforementioned uncompensated individuals and communities.

As noted by a recent Dutch study, “people who benefit economically from wind turbines have a significantly decreased risk of annoyance, despite exposure to similar sound levels [as those who do not benefit economically].” Or, to translate from scientific to soundbite English, the Ontario government had forgotten the wisdom of turning local stakeholders into local shareholders.

The province was also judged to have violated World Trade Organization rules when it enforced local-content requirements for renewables to qualify for feed-in tariffs; and the politically-motivated cancellation of two natural gas plants may wind up costing the province one billion dollars.

For all these missteps, Ontario continues to move forward, slowly transforming its electricity, energy use, and economy. (“Little Germany,” indeed…) And while residential electricity rates have risen in recent years, they top out at a maximum 13 cents / kWh during peak hours, still on the low side of North American norms.

Meanwhile, in an alternate universe

One wonders whether Keystone XL and other pipelines would have already received their permits if Canada had followed Ontario’s lead, instead of Alberta’s. (Alberta is home to Canada’s tar sands.) Would counterparties be willing to help Canadian bitumen into international markets if the country could credibly claim to be using the one-time boon to swiftly transition off fossil fuels – developing expertise that could then be exported abroad?

The Canadian provinces of Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia – encompassing three-quarters of the Canadian population – have reduced per-capita greenhouse gas emissions 24, 17 and 11 percent respectively since 1990. And while Canada’s Kyoto commitments were based on absolute reductions, not per-capita reductions, most observers would acknowledge these achievements as a good start. Residents of the three provinces generate 10 to 13 tonnes of CO2 per year, in line with their German counterparts.

Alas, we don’t live in an alternate universe; and in our universe, the Canadian government has long since chosen to be bellicose and belligerent in pushing its bitumen interests. In addition to cutting climate research and muzzling scientists, the government has spied on pipeline opponents and gone out of its way to describe them in terms befitting the 9/11 terrorists**. During the 2008 election campaign, the ruling Conservative Party even created an online video showing a puffin repeatedly defecating on an opposition leader, and characterizing his carbon tax proposal as a “tax on everything.”

Ironically, investigative journalists have determined that Canada’s oil giants are quietly in favour of a carbon tax, which would reduce regulatory risks to their projects’ profitability. With Shell Oil’s recent announcement that it assumes a $40/tonne CO2 price for new projects, we can assume they’re among this group.

With the federal government set in its self-destructive ways, Canadians have been forced to look to the provincial and municipal levels for leadership on climate issues. And while hard-working stewards from across the political spectrum are working to create a cleaner, better future for community and country, Ontario’s leadership deserves special acknowledgement.

In phasing out coal, Ontario has let go of the 18th century, to better embrace the 21st. The government showed its citizens the willingness to take action to build the better future their children deserve.

Better still, the many other measures the province took leading up to this announcement emphatically proved that Energiewende-esque per-capita emissions reductions can be achieved, even in North America, and even without a price on carbon. Which gives hope – and perhaps even a hint of excitement – about the progress we’ll be able to make when governments begin pricing carbon, worldwide.

* See www.tinyurl.com/CanadaEVSales. Ontario data on “Canada by Province” tab (row 70-ish). German data on “Global GHG’s” tab.

** In the fourth paragraph, Minister Oliver states, “these groups threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda” (emphasis added). In a post-9/11 world, the concept of radical hijackers universally brings to mind the terrorists from those terrible, tragic attacks. By extension, referring to one’s opponents as radical hijackers is to compare them, by analogy, to the 9/11 terrorists. This document being an open letter published on a government website, this slanderous characterization of pipeline opponents would have been approved by Minister Oliver and the messaging-obsessed Prime Minister as well.

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This article, Ontario Cleans Its Hands Of Coal, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Matthew Klippenstein is a professional engineer and plug-in electric vehicle enthusiast. A member of the Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association, he lives with his family in the nearby suburb of Burnaby, tweets at @EclecticLip and blogs occasionally at http://www.eclecticlip.com. A thirteen-year veteran of the fuel cell industry with Ballard Power Systems, he was part of the micro-CHP product team which won the American Electrochemical Society New Technology Award in 2007, and co-authored the company’s white paper on the future of electricity (“electron-democracy”) for a McKinsey & Company essay series to which Steven Chu and Andy Grove also contributed. In roles spanning research, product design and production, he helped the company scale-up from discrete manual assembly to continuous, automated roll-to-roll processing, with the company manufacturing its 1,000,000th production-line MEA (membrane-electrode assembly) in 2010.

Canada’s Largest Solar PV Power Plant To Be Powered By ABB

by Zachary Shahan

ABB_LasVegasSolar
Canada to install another 100MW Solar PV Power Plant in the province of Ontario. Image Credit: ABB

Canada is going to get a new 100MW solar power plant. The Grand Renewable Energy Park will be in Ontario, which is Canada’s most populous province and home to the city of Toronto (which is getting a lot of attention for other reasons right now). This Ontario solar PV power plant will add to existing PV capacity in the province, notably, the Sarnia Photovoltaic Power Plant which is a 97MW solar installation and at the time of its completion (Sept 2010) was the largest solar PV power plant in the world.

ABB will be supplying Canadian Solar Solutions — the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor for the plant — with about $80 million of balance of system (BOS) technologies “comprising a broad range of power and automation products, including ABB’s flagship automation platform for conventional power generation and renewable applications, Symphony™ Plus.” In addition, ABB will be in charge of engineering, electrical installation, commissioning, and performance testing of the plant.

This is a big project — one of the biggest solar power plants in the world. However, interestingly, this power plant is part of a much, much, bigger renewable energy project. It’s part of a behemoth $5 billion investment by Samsung Renewable Energy in solar and wind energy projects with a total power capacity of 1,369 MW (1.369 GW)!

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This article, Canada’s Largest Solar PV Power Plant To Be Powered By ABB, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Zachary Shahan is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he’s the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he’s the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.

Canada – Resource Boom or Manufacturing Boom? Why Not Both!

by John Brian Shannon

I’m a big fan of Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall. You can’t argue with success and the province has excelled with Brad Wall as premier. Well done on all counts, Premier Wall.

NDP leader Thomas Mulcair has a point, however. By devaluing the dollar, a huge part of Canada’s economy (almost 50%) could ALSO start to perform at a high level instead of continuing to sputter along at half-speed.

Not just the resource-based provinces romping along as they have been doing — but manufacturing provinces could return to full performance.

For manufacturing, a lower dollar will drive the demand of exports higher, Canadian production will ramp up, employment will increase. And we all know where – Ontario which is Canada’s largest ‘value added‘ economic zone.

Some people use the term manufacturing, but I call it what it really is, value-added. We take our provincially-owned raw resources and add value to those resources by manufacturing something from them or processing them, instead of merely selling our finite resources out of the country and getting nothing more from them.

Manufacturing has stalled in Canada, due in part to Canada’s strong dollar – our exports have become uncompetitive over the years as the dollar has risen. A direct correlation exists between those two stats.

If you want the biggest economic engine in Canada to suddenly begin to receive larger volumes of orders from other countries including the U.S. our biggest trading partner, causing those goods to become cheaper is the way to go.

Devaluing the Canadian dollar has NO EFFECT on Canadian consumers at all, unless you are purchasing goods and services from outside Canada. And if you are buying goods from other countries – shame on you – buy Canadian!

If devaluation inconveniences you because you purchase goods from other nations, a booming economy (Cdn resources PLUS Cdn manufacturing) firing on all cylinders should more than make up for it!

Some may wonder about losing our strong resource sector exports, which are already performing very well due to high demand for them in the rest of the world.

The price of raw resources will not drop when demand is so high.

It’s only different in the case of Canadian coal exporters who are facing dropping demand, which equals lower prices ($192.86 in July 2008, now at $99.75 in May 2012) devaluation could help, however, as a lower price will increase demand.

Those coal quotes are the 60 month (thermal coal) contract price from indexmundi.com — but are representative of world thermal coal price trends: http://www.indexmundi.com/commodities/?commodity=coal-australian&months=60

It is better to sell lots of coal at $85.00 per metric tonne, than hardly any at all at $100.00 per metric tonne.

Tourism to Canada would also receive a major boost as our prices would become more affordable due to devaluation of our dollar.

So, what’s the downside of getting Canada’s manufacturing sector and related (which together represent up to 50% of Canada’s economy) again firing on all cylinders — by devaluing the dollar by up to 20%?

As long as demand remains high for gas and oil there should be little downside for Canada’s resource-based provincial economies, as that high demand dictates prices will stay the same, or continue to increase.

I can understand Premier Wall’s concerns for Saskatchewan’s resource and agriculture based economy – but at this point in time, world demand remains high for all resources – and for coal too – but only at the right price.

Follow John Brian Shannon on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/JBSCanada

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Port Hope Nuclear Waste:10-Year Cleanup Of Radioactive Material To Cost $1.28 Billion | MY COMMENT

Port Hope Nuclear Waste:10-Year Cleanup Of Radioactive Material To Cost $1.28 Billion — The Canadian Press
January 14, 2012

MY COMMENT — Full marks to the Conservati­ve government on announcing this clean-up project.

Yes, it should have been started years ago, but at least it is about to be done now.

A word about nuclear. It is hugely expensive to build, cheap to operate and produces cheap power for decades – and then there is the spent fuel rods – some of which must be securely stored for 20,000 years. Also, there is the risk radioactiv­e leaks, of the type we see at this site, or large scale contam as occurred in Fukushima, Japan.

Which is why Japan has shut down a majority of it’s 54 nuclear reactors and has just signed a huge oil deal with the Saudi’s. Japan expects to triple petroleum imports (compared to 2010 levels) to make up the difference while all those reactors sit idle.

Germany likewise, is getting out of nuclear. They planned to do it in less than 20 years. After inspecting their reactors, they say they will complete that process sooner.

If only solar and wind (and other sustainabl­es) had the same level of government subsidizat­ion as nuclear. Nuclear stock-hold­ers could simply switch their investment­s over to green energy stocks and make the same, or more, return on their investment­.

In the U.S. decommissi­oned nuclear plants are now having wind-turbi­nes and solar arrays installed, even as the clean-up continues. Hanford, Washington will take decades to remediate, but sustainabl­e energy is being installed on that site as we speak.

We could do the same.