In this wide-ranging interview with the Ottawa Citizen, Ontario’s Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli claims that “other issues” are responsible for the severe divisions in rural communities, including “the abortion issue.” Yes, he really said that. Oh, and he’s running again in 2018.
Here is an excerpt of the interview.
… Ontario loves to boast that it no longer burns coal for electricity. But the new mix of nuclear, hydro, wind and solar costs a lot, in part because Ontario under George Smitherman signed fat 20-year solar power deals.
“It was a stupid thing,” says Bill Eggertson, who heads the Canadian Association for Renewable Energy. Ontario buys electricity from solar panels on his Ottawa home for 80 cents/kWh, and resells it for, at most, 18 cents/kWh. “I shouldn’t be getting 80 cents. I would have started at 50 cents.”
Chiarelli changed gears. Last month Ontario awarded contracts for 16 wind and solar projects through competitive bids, paying nine to 18 cents/kWh, and will begin this summer to take bids to buy double that amount of renewable power. Chiarelli relishes this role, as purveyor of clean power.
“When you look at price comparisons for Ohio, or Michigan or Nova Scotia or Saskatchewan or Alberta, they are all still burning dirty, cheap coal. And our prices, which are still competitive, are clean and coal-free. Yes, that puts pressure on prices, and that’s a social policy and an environmental policy that we choose to make.”
Does Ontario need more generation? As wind turbines multiply, factories decamp. Ontario power consumption has dropped 15 per cent in a decade, which regulators attribute to lower demand, increased efficiency and house-mounted solar panels, which don’t count in consumption numbers. Today Ontario exports 10 times the power it did a decade ago, often at a loss. (Ontario will buy zoo poo power for 17 cents/kWh; power sells for six cents/kWh on the spot market.) Why erect more wind turbines?
Chiarelli insists, “We do need to produce more electricity, because we are going to be taking nuclear units out.” He concedes that he awarded wind and solar contracts to companies who paid $7,500 for that “informal evening” with him at the Four Seasons Hotel in March. It’s all above-board, he says.
“There is no, ‘You fundraise and you get a contract.’ People who have made contributions to us have asked for things, and we’ve said absolutely no. And there are people who may have been successful.”
Chiarelli takes abuse on both sides of the energy debate. Eggertson serves on a panel studying Hydro Ottawa’s request for a $75 million transmission line. He says if Ontario mandated each new home to face south and put a solar panel on its roof, they wouldn’t need the line. Chiarelli is unmoved.
“That’s Czar Nicholas,” he says: Like the czar, he must push the transmission line through. “Ottawa is expanding like crazy.” The solar option “can’t be done.”
Chiarelli walks more slowly these day. “It’s my arthritic hips from my hockey days. I’m on watch for a possible hip replacement.” He plans to run in the next election.
Still, Chiarelli pauses when I read him a quote from [Dennis] Fife, the mayor of North Stormont: “The people who don’t want turbines no longer speak or wave to the people that have them.”
Chiarelli sucks in his breath and blows it out slowly.
“That’s very unfortunate,” he says. “There are probably a lot of other issues that divide communities. The abortion issue, for example.
“I am not sure that you should not take tough decisions because it might create some divisions among competing interest groups. You do what you believe is right, and you live or die by it. I was minister of energy in last election, and the number of votes I got went up.”
Read the full story here.
Another interview with Mr Chiarelli here.