The Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO) on March 3, 2012 released a paper titled “RNAO Position Statement on Healthy Energy Solution” which effectively was a rehash of ideas and other papers issued by the likes of Environmental Defence, Pembina and Greenpeace Canada. In summary the RNAO suggests, nay recommends; that Ontario immediately close all coal-fired plants (well, not quite: they suggest we put them on standby while we erect more wind turbines), abandon any thoughts of building or refurbishing new nuclear plants, and use gas generation plants as peaking power until we have enough renewables (wind, solar and biomass) to supply our needs.
The RNAO also suggests wind could supply 20% of our needs while recommending closing down nuclear which supplied 57% of Ontario’s consumption in 2011. Where the difference of 37% will come from is anyone’s guess but perhaps they see the difference coming from conservation which they also push. A “tongue in cheek” report prepared by Aegent Energy estimated that Ontario would require approximately 12,000 industrial wind turbines (IWTs) to replace our existing nuclear plants and those 12,000 IWTs would use up 14,000 square kilometres of Ontario’s land mass. Presumably much of that land mass would be valuable farm land which would effectively reduce our ability to produce cheap abundant food for consumption.
Their report points to the heavy costs of coal-fired generation citing the same worn-out DSS report prepared in 2005 that is used by the Liberal Energy Ministers and the same groups that the RNAO cite as their primary sources of “studies.” That DSS report was prepared for the Liberal Government and provided four scenarios with the one always used as the “worst case” which was when coal-fired generation was contributing 25% of our consumption without the benefit of “scrubbers” to remove most particulates related to asthma related medical conditions. The study by DSS was never peer reviewed and the modelling estimates of environmental related deaths was severely criticized by Professor Ross McKitrick of the University of Guelph. His review concluded: “Overall the DSS05 Report does not provide credible support for the decision to close the Ontario coal-fired power plants. As has been found previously the pollution increments attributable to OPG facilities are extremely small across Southern Ontario except in the immediate vicinity of the power plants themselves.”
The closing of the nuclear generation plants in the province as the RNAO recommends would entail replacing that power with unreliable, intermittent power from wind and solar that would require fossil fuel generation (gas) to back it up. The net effect would be to push up the cost of electricity even further. This would exacerbate the current effect on many Ontario residents putting more and more people into energy poverty. Does the RNAO want Ontarians to choose between feeding themselves or trying to keep warm. The burden placed on people living on fixed incomes would require massive social benefits to sustain them in a province that is burdened with increasing deficits and debt and can ill afford even our current levels. The effect of higher electricity prices; drives out industrial plants from the Province, increases unemployment, and makes Ontario an unattractive destination for any investment that may create new jobs.
Does the RNAO not recognize that Ontario will be unable to support the investment in hospitals they work in, the cost of medical care and their salaries if the government follows through on their recommendations? Does the RNAO, as the Auditor General noted in his report, not consider the cost/benefits associated with charging ahead with unreliable and intermittent energy generation by the many sustainable energy groups who use our tax dollars to further their causes when the rest of the world is questioning the science behind climate change.
This is a blinkered report without substance and ignores both the costs of the proposition they are expounding and the increasing evidence pointing to the health effects of industrial wind turbines on the rural population of this province. The lack of understanding and compassion contained in this report on the part of the RNAO is not in keeping with the nursing profession.
Parker Gallant April 23, 2012