February 20, 2008

Lopsided power plan for Northern York Region

On January 31st, Ontario Energy Minister Gerry Phillips directed the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) to procure 350 to 400 megawatts (MW) of power from an inefficient simple-cycle gas generator to meet the needs of Northern York Region (e.g., Aurora, Newmarket).

This unbalanced plan will come with high environmental and financial costs.

Unbalanced: According to the plan approved by the Minister, Northern York Region’s needs will be met by a combination of 30 MW of conservation and demand management and 350 to 400 MW of new supply.  That’s a 12:1 ratio in favour of more polluting and more costly new generation.

Environmentally costly: Simple-cycle turbines are the least efficient way to use valuable natural gas to make electricity, with an energy efficiency of only 36% compared to natural gas-fired combined heat and power plants that can have energy efficiencies of 80 to 90%.  As a consequence, the greenhouse gas emissions rate of the new simple cycle gas plant will be more than double that of a combined heat and power plant.

Financially costly: Adding insult to injury, the simple cycle gas plant will cost $230 to $266 million to build and will only operate for 2.5% of the year to meet the fleeting spike in demand caused by air conditioners running on hot summer days.

Instead of spending scarce dollars on costly and inefficient power plants to meet fleeting peak electricity demand, the OPA should be working to reduce peak day demands. The OPA should be helping utilities enroll more residential air conditioners in their PeakSaver programs and should be paying large electricity consumers to shift some of their loads from peak to off-peak periods on high demand days.

We believe that Minister Phillips is planning to direct the OPA to procure a similar simple-cycle power plant in the Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge and Guelph Area.  Please contact Minister Phillips and ask him to meet the electricity needs of both Northern York Region and Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge-Guelph with a balanced, environmentally responsible and cost-effective combination of energy conservation, renewable energy and high-efficiency natural gas-fired generation. 

Minister Phillips can be reached at gphillips.mpp@liberal.ola.org


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Jessica Fracassi
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