London Community News
April 4, 2012
Mallory Clarkson

Energy solutions needed

With Ontario’s population on the rise, a balance needs to be found between a growing demand for energy, while remaining focused on conservation.

With that dilemma in mind, more than 50 people gathered at the London Public Library’s Central Branch on Thursday (March 29) to hear about some solutions to that scenario.

Hosted by the Thames Region Ecological Association (TREA), the event — entitled Finding an Energy Efficiency Strategy for Ontario — brought out Ontario Clean Air Alliance chair Jack Gibbons and Chris Winter, Conservation Council of Ontario executive director, to talk about this issue.

When it comes to efficiency, Gibbons argued the province’s energy grid can be solely reliant on renewable energy. He added this wouldn’t be the first time this has happened, as around century ago, Sir Adam Beck managed to do just that.

Beck was a former London mayor, the first “Power Minister” and chairman of the Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario, which was the first publicly owned utility that harnessed power from Niagara Falls.

Gibbons said in order to make the move to rely only on renewable power, Ontarians needs to persuade Energy Minister Chris Bentley, who is also the London West MPP, to be the new Beck.

He stressed there are better alternatives than using energy created through non-renewable means or nuclear power.

Gibbons argued the electricity generated by aging nuclear reactors can be replaced by being more energy efficient, ceasing to waste natural gas and importing hydro-electricity from Quebec.

“These huge cost savings from cancelling our wasteful nuclear spending program, can be used to reduce your electricity bills and to protect health care and public education.”

When it comes to moving away from wasteful uses for natural gas, Gibbons explained this comment was made with particular reference to using the fuel for heating purposes only. He said a business like Veresen-owned London District Energy (LDE) is a good example of how producing energy can become more efficient.

Sean Russell, commercial manager of LDE, said the company has around 13 kilometres of pipe under London’s core that services around 15 per cent of downtown’s heating and cooling needs. This represents the heating of around 52 buildings and the cooling of 10.

Russell added the John Labatt Centre, the London Public Library Central Branch and the TD towers are some of the structures serviced by the LDE.

The plant also provides more than 30 per cent of the downtown’s electricity needs, accounting for around 15,000 homes.

What separates the LDE from other plants that use natural gas solely for heat is that it also uses waste heat as steam to generate electricity.

In a conventional plant around 60-70 per cent of the energy put into the facility ends up as waste. Comparatively, of the total energy put into a co-generation plant (like the LDE), 50-60 per cent is used as heat, 30-40 per cent is turned into electricity and around 10 per cent is waste.

“Co-generation tries to capture the large majority of the energy that’s available in natural gas and put it to a useful purpose,” Russell said.

The event on Thursday was not only a forum on green energy, but also conservation.

Winter said some problems could come with the expected 34 per cent population growth expected by 2036.

“Everything that we do, everything that we consume is going to increase 34 per cent unless we become better at conserving,” he said. “Sooner or later, by choice or by crisis, we will live in a conserver society.”

Winter added a shift in attitude from being consumers to conservers needs to happen.

Bentley noted the province does have a number of conservation programs available for homeowners and businesses. He said a lot of power has already been — and will continue to be — saved over the past several years.

“Through conservation programs that have been run by the Ontario Power Authority and local distribution companies, what we’re looking to do is add to those by giving people some simple examples of how to save power,” he said, “without investing a lot of money and without the taxpayers spending money.”

He added energy saving tips will be available on the Energy Ministry website.