Politics Threaten Ontario's Electricity Supply and Air Quality

    TORONTO, June 21 /CNW/ - The latest provincial plan to reduce greenhouse
gas emissions will harm Ontario consumers and industry, the Power Workers'
Union said today.
    "The recently announced plan ignores the advice of Ontario energy
experts, the cost impacts on consumers and the availability of proven,
affordable clean coal technology alternatives to closing the coal stations.
Ontario is the only major jurisdiction in the world that has decided to take
low-cost coal out of the mix," said Don MacKinnon, President of the Power
Workers' Union. "In his recent announcement, the Premier acknowledged that
more than 1000 new coal stations will be built worldwide by 2030. Instead of
burying our heads in the sand, Ontario needs to grab the opportunity it has to
become a responsible world leader in the reduction of pollution and greenhouse
gases through deployment of clean coal technologies, while ensuring that
Ontarians have affordable and reliable electricity."
    MacKinnon emphasized that more than 50 per cent of the smog-causing
emissions that affect Ontario's air come from U.S. sources. These sources in
states upwind of Ontario include hundreds of coal-fuelled stations, with many
more being built - in addition to the airborne pollutants from 50 million-plus
motor vehicles. If we close our coal stations, much of the replacement power
will come from U.S. coal stations. This will not improve our air quality.
    MacKinnon explained that the problem with Premier McGuinty's announcement
is that it does not account for the negative impact on the province's
consumers or competitiveness. Electricity prices and natural gas prices are
both likely to rise significantly with this plan.
    The Premier said he will pass a regulation mandating the closure of the
coal stations by 2014, after putting off closure twice already due to supply
shortfalls. Yet in a recent speech to the Ontario Power Summit, Jan Carr,
Chief Executive Officer of the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) said growing
demand, closing the coal stations and replacing ageing nuclear plants means
Ontario must build as much generation in the next 20 years as currently exists
in British Columbia and Alberta combined. "In effect," he said "coal is an
insurance policy against delays or setbacks in implementing other key elements
of the plan."
    It's time to stop the politics and get on with retrofitting these plants
with proven, clean coal technology that can dramatically reduce smog-causing
emissions. European experience shows that greenhouse gas emission reductions
of up to 30 per cent can be achieved by mixing biomass such as wheat shorts
and grain screenings with coal and upgrading turbine equipment. Test burns
undertaken by Ontario Power Generation at the Nanticoke Station show these
approaches can work. Opportunities also exist for Ontario to become a world
leader in clean coal technology by participating in Canadian research and
development programs.
    The federal government recently announced an Action Plan to Reduce
Greenhouse Gases and Air Pollution. The federal government's decision to focus
on developing clean coal technology in Canada will do a lot more to reduce
global greenhouse gas emissions than Ontario's approach.
    "The provincial government's greenhouse gas plan dramatically and
unnecessarily drives up electricity prices for the average consumer, and
attempts to stem the flow of manufacturing job losses by using tax dollars to
keep the auto manufacturers in Ontario in spite of rising energy costs,"
continued MacKinnon. "The remainder of the plan relies on optimistic,
we-will-work-it-out-later conservation and demand management programs."
    The Power Workers' Union believes that Ontarians require an electricity
supply plan that is based on a number of sources, including clean coal,
hydroelectric, nuclear and natural gas where necessary, along with other
renewable options such as wind and biomass.
    Part of the government's plan calls for increased reliance on more
expensive natural gas-fired generation. A 2005 Independent Electricity System
Operator Market Overview shows the impact this higher-cost, price-volatile
fuel has on electricity prices. A low supply/high demand situation that year
coupled with rising gas prices, resulted in high electricity prices. When
gas-fired generation set the price, it did so at an average price of $95 per
megawatt hour, compared to coal generation at $46.
    New York's Independent System Operator's recent Power Trends 2007 Report
identifies "the power generation sector's ever-increasing dependence on
natural gas, which leaves the state's wholesale electricity markets vulnerable
to price volatility and the security of its supply systems, whether domestic
or international." The provincial government does not appear to share New
York's concern about higher prices or security of supply.
    The Power Workers' Union's Better Energy Plan (www.abetterenergyplan.ca)
also includes a review of the province's natural gas strategy, investment in
renewable power and the promotion of energy efficiency. This approach will
guarantee the people of Ontario and the businesses that operate here, an
affordable, clean and secure supply of energy all year round. Copies of the
PWU submission to the OPA can be found at the Better Energy Plan website.

    The Power Workers' Union is the largest electricity union in Ontario,
representing employees in electricity generation, transmission, distribution,
regulations, and research and development.

For further information:

For further information: Tonique Harry, Media Profile, (416) 504-8464,

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