Sarnia Observer
Paul Morden,
August 3, 2012

Close coal plants now, report advises

The Ontario Clean Air Alliance doesn’t want the provincial government to wait until 2014 to shut down the Lambton Generating Station.

It a new report, Ontario’s Electricity Surplus: An Opportunity to Reduce Costs, the alliance calls on Queen’s Park to pull the plug now on all its coal-fired plants.

"They’re huge money losers and we don’t need them any longer to keep our lights on," said Jack Gibbons, chairperson of the alliance.

"It makes sense to shut them down now to protect public health and to help lower electricity rates," Gibbons said.

Ontario has said its remaining coal plants must close by Dec. 31, 2014 but unions for 300 workers at the Lambton Generating Station at Courtright, as well as community leaders in Sarnia-Lambton, have been pushing the province to convert it to natural gas power.

The alliance says that’s not needed because Ontario’s electricity generation capacity has grown by 13% since 2003. It adds that closing the coal plants now could reduce electricity rates by about $367 million annually, or about 2.3%.

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley, chairperson of the Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership, said the economy is the primary reason Ontario has a electricity surplus and it would be a mistake to shut down the Lambton Generating Station now.

"It would be like playing Russian roulette with the economy if all of a sudden the demand went up, or if there were other issues with the power system," he said.

Closing the generating station early would also be unfair to its workers, Bradley said.

"I think Jack and them are living in a dream world," said Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey. "If the economy was to get back to somewhat normal, we’re going to need that generation capacity."

Ontario announced earlier this summer that a 300-MW natural gas-fired electricity plant will relocate from Mississauga to St. Clair Township, but that won’t be online for a few years, Bradley said.

He added the Clean Air Alliance once supported converting Lambton Generating Station to natural gas.

That’s not the case now.

Gibbons said that while it makes sense to build a new high efficiency gas plant in Lambton, "it doesn’t make sense to just convert the old Lambton boilers to natural gas, because those boilers are very inefficient."

Gibbon also rejected the idea the power from coal plants could be needed again if the economy recovers.

Ontario’s electricity demand have dropped 10% since 2005 as the economy has become more efficient, and demand is forecast to continue falling until at least 2021, he said.

"We’ll never need the coal plants again."