I am a former federal Liberal Riding President, and have largely distanced myself on matters of federal politics since leaving that position out of respect to those I worked with, but this I felt required comment. I hope it will not require much more action that writing a letter to the Leader of the Liberal Party to correct his facts.
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff’s speech to the Vancouver Board of Trade demonstrated a staggering ignorance on the ‘clean energy’ file. His speech today demonstrated a total lack of understanding of this division of power. What’s more, he incorrectly accused Canada of not being a green energy leader. We are. Hydroelectricity represents 88% of the world’s installed renewable energy source. Canada is second only to China in the production of hydroelectric power, and is forth in the world for use of hydroelectricity as a percentage of supply.
The majority of Canada’s power production (just under 60%) comes from hydroelectricity. We’re three times greener than Denmark – but more importantly because of energy use, considerably more than that megawatt to megawatt.
Four provinces, and one territory have 75% or more of their power supplied by hydroelectricity. They are Newfoundland (not including Labrador) (73%) and Labrador(100%), Yukon (89%), British Columbia (90%), Manitoba (96%), Quebec (96%). – This is all clean energy.
Ontario’s Nuclear and Hydro combined represent 75% of power production – all of which is non carbon emitting and therefore would meet the definition of ‘clean energy’ in the context of Ignatieff’s speech, where clean energy was energy that did not contribute to global warming through CO2 emissions.
Michael Ignatieff is right that just 1% of installed power supply in Canada is wind or solar. That doesn’t change the fact that Canada is a clean energy leader through serious investment in reliable, predictable, and affordable renewable technology. A lack of wind and solar in the grid simply means the Provinces aren’t jumping on unreliable, expensive technology that doesn’t work. That’s a good thing.
Denmark and Germany are false idols of clean power. The majority of Denmark’s power comes from coal fired plants, and due to the unreliability of wind power, much of their production is exported to neighbouring countries that rely heavily on hydroelectric, but dial back it’s production to use the unreliable wind power when available. What it means is that Denmark isn’t nearly the clean energy leader that Canada is and that even with 19% of their grid being wind, they aren’t even displacing carbon emissions because they success in using this unreliable power is based on trading a stable source of renewable energy for an unreliable one. Germany is building 26 new coal fired plants to make up for the unreliability of wind power, and isn’t nearly as far along as Canada in carbon free energy either.
If you want to dabble in unreliable power production like wind – you need a smart grid, so you can shut the reliable stuff off when the wind decides to blow (this is seriously how the science behind this works). Smart grids cost billions and the only people who think the provinces should be developing smart grids are wind farm developers. It’s like if Ford or GM thought building more highways were a good idea. With hydroelectricity or any other proven source of power – where there is capacity within the grid you can build more supply into it, no need for the kinds of sophisticated, and otherwise unnecessary enhancements wind barons would have taxpayers paying for so we can buy their electricity at three to five times the cost any other form of power sold into the grid goes for.
As for Michael Ignatieff attacking the federal government because Barack Obama is spending six times more than the Canadian government on renewable energy this year, the United States is ten times the size of Canada, so a six to one ratio wouldn’t actually be that bad, but when you consider that over 85% of US power is produced by carbon emitting sources – the real story is how little the United States is doing. If he is worried about carbon emitting sources of electricty production he should be condemning the United States. Considering this is really a provincial issue in Canada, I don’t see why it would be that out of line for him to propose policy for another country too. After all neither is his jurisdiction. Many provinces did this work in Canada decades ago, and they did it right. It isn’t a fair comparison, and is irresponsible commentary from and political and policy perspective. The others (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and PEI) each have the responsibility to set their own production mixes, but this certainly is not the role for the federal government and never has been.
This is a really bad issue for Michael Ignatieff to seize on. He is misleading the public about the powers and responsibilities of the Federal government, the experiences in other countries, and trying to ignore what is a really great Canadian success story – hydroelectricity – so he can score some shots, irresponsibility trying to look green for supporting an unreliable technology that not only doesn’t work but isn’t part of the area of responsibility he is seeking from the public. It also costs a bizarre and indefensible amount of money and is probably the hottest political issue in Ontario with an organized grassroots opposition movement opposing it.
I will be writing Mr. Ignatieff, in my capacity as President of Wind Concerns Ontario to discuss the success story of clean energy in Canada as it relates to hydroelectricity, to share my perception of electricity as a provincial jurisdiction and to strongly advise against trying to use wind and solar as a political wedge, because it is one which such a strong force of opposition working against it, and such a limited merit that it neither makes political sense or public policy sense.
I also intend to engage the Conservatives, NDP, Bloc and Green Party in defending the good work if many provinces in seeking carbon free electricity and educating Canadians on these successes and not allowing any party leader to mislead the public on the facts, should the Opposition Leader seek to continue this current line on Canada’s reputation as a renewable energy leader.