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The Provincial Liberal's Green Legacy?

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#1
I know it's still a bit early to be writing obituaries for the provincial Liberal Party. However, because of the ongoing issues in the news right now (the byelections, subways, wind farms, gas plants, etc), I thought it might be a good time to consider the environmental legacy of the Liberal government. Was it a success or a failure?

On the one hand, from the perspective of the Harris/Eves era, the Liberals have taken on an extremely ambitious, aggressive agenda to curb emissions and fight climate change. Goals like shutting down coal plants, putting a greenbelt around the GTA, and investing in urban rail transit across the province. These things were unimaginable under the Conservatives, when we were still doubling-down on the automobile and urban sprawl and climate change seemed like a fringe issue.

On the other hand, it seems like these very goals have been the bane of the Liberals throughout their mandate. Their attempts to build alternative forms of power generation (natural gas, wind, etc) have been blocked or bogged down by NIMBYs at every turn – including the cancelled Mississauga plant that could very well put the Conservatives back in power. As a result, we're still relying heavily on coal. For all the talk about urban transit networks, there are still no LRT lines in the province. Progress has been stalled by bickering and infighting among various urban stakeholders. It is not inconceivable that if the Conservatives got into power by 2015 or earlier they could pull the plug on the whole thing and we would be back to where we started.

More generally, the state of public debate has shifted from the need to cut emissions and address climate change to the folly of big, incompetent government getting in people's way. The NDP seems to have completely turned their back on the environmental issue. In fact they seem to be doubling-down on the car by fighting gas taxes and insurance rates.

So what is the environmental legacy of the Liberals? How much of their goals have actually been turned into concrete infrastructure that will give us a greener future? What has their impact been on the culture of Ontario? Have they succeeded in making formerly "fringe" issues a basic expectation of the public (e.g. the need for mass public transit), or have they poisoned the environmental issue so that even future governments who might be inclined to adopt an aggressive agenda will shy away?
 

Marko

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#3
So what is the environmental legacy of the Liberals? How much of their goals have actually been turned into concrete infrastructure that will give us a greener future?
The direction they chose to take was the easy one, the trendy one, the one that made them appear to be doing a whole lot more than they really did. It's far more window dressing than genuine results. They're not the only ones mind you, there have been bad deals signed by governments around the world, eager to follow those who trumpeted green industry as the only way forward.

I'm not questioning science here in terms of whether we need to be green or not, I'm questioning the effectiveness of that path we choose to take in terms of achieving reductions and/or indirect consequences of those decisions. We're making bad decisions.
 
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#4
The direction they chose to take was the easy one, the trendy one, the one that made them appear to be doing a whole lot more than they really did. It's far more window dressing than genuine results. They're not the only ones mind you, there have been bad deals signed by governments around the world, eager to follow those who trumpeted green industry as the only way forward.

I'm not questioning science here in terms of whether we need to be green or not, I'm questioning the effectiveness of that path we choose to take in terms of achieving reductions and/or indirect consequences of those decisions. We're making bad decisions.
Based on how much trouble they've been running into, I disagree with your statement that the Liberals took the "easy" direction (I'd say the easy direction would be what the Federal Liberals did in the 90's/2000's: paying lip service to the issue while continuing to ride the inertia of the carbon economy). However, I am interested in knowing what you think the more importance/effective policies are that they should have implemented.
 
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#5
On the other hand, it seems like these very goals have been the bane of the Liberals throughout their mandate. Their attempts to build alternative forms of power generation (natural gas, wind, etc) have been blocked or bogged down by NIMBYs at every turn – including the cancelled Mississauga plant that could very well put the Conservatives back in power. As a result, we're still relying heavily on coal.

Actually we don't rely heavily on coal anymore. Coal represents about 9% of installed capacity but it is rarely used. The below link shows a snapshot of energy production at this very moment. Currently only 2.8% of production is coming from coal. There is actually more energy coming from wind (3%) at this very moment. The coal plants that remain in operation are just being used as "peaking" plants and have been retrofitted with scrubbers that drastically reduce emissions.

Also from this link you can see a list showing changes in recent years to the energy mix. Notice all the coal plants that have been shut down.

http://www.ieso.ca/imoweb/media/md_supply.asp
 

Marko

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#6
Based on how much trouble they've been running into, I disagree with your statement that the Liberals took the "easy" direction (I'd say the easy direction would be what the Federal Liberals did in the 90's/2000's: paying lip service to the issue while continuing to ride the inertia of the carbon economy). However, I am interested in knowing what you think the more importance/effective policies are that they should have implemented.
It was easy in that other places were doing the same thing and the industries themselves were doing a really good job selling the public on certain technologies. There was soooo much eagerness to do something, that decision makers didn't dig very deep into different options and - here's the cynical part - they were strongly influenced by the ability to raise taxes, rates or user fees in order to generate new revenue streams, as well as make promises of new jobs (which would be paid for by these new revenue streams).

What else could they have done?

- Invest/subsidize into more efficient power transformer equipment
- Invest/subsidize the retrofit of older industrial equipment with new high PFC equipment
- Invest/subsidize the retrofit of things like HVAC and lighting systems
- Implement efficiency standards for many household and industrial product to a minimum power factor
- Implement efficiency standards for vehicles and/or increase transportation efficiency through traffic signal synchronization
- Actually close down our coal power plants and not cancel the new gas ones

Forgetting excess generation that we sell off to other regions, there are huge efficiencies to be found within our own system. In many cases - especially industrial - the power generating companies have to generate and distribute twice as much power as the end user is paying for, because they are using inefficient equipment and machinery.

For example - a transformer with a PF of 50% means that if the user pays for and uses 1000W, OPG has to generate and distribute 2000W for that device to work. Replace one such device with a new one that has a PF of 80 or 90% and they now have to generate and distribute 1100 or 1200W. This is something on the level of a hair dryer, mind you. Imagine something that runs for 16 hours a day and uses many kilowatts? Now imagine upgrading a thousand such devices, or a million devices that save a mere 20W each? Might cost hundreds of millions - even billions over time - but it actually produces a tangible reduction in consumption, thereby lowering generation needs.

Thing is - you can't make money by selling less electricity. Retrofit jobs will be created, but these aren't as sexy as those making windmills or solar panels.

There is a whole lot more that I'm not even considering, I'm just offering top-of-mind examples of things I have some familiarity with.
 

doug

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#7
For example - a transformer with a PF of 50% means that if the user pays for and uses 1000W, OPG has to generate and distribute 2000W for that device to work.
The power factor of a transformer is almost completely defined by the load. A fully loaded transformer has a very high power factor, unloaded, its power factor decreases substantially, but this is easily compensated for by switching in banks of capacitors. Reactive loads, such as an SMPS should have active power factor correction, most modern SMPS's do.
 

Silence&Motion

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#8
Actually we don't rely heavily on coal anymore. Coal represents about 9% of installed capacity but it is rarely used. The below link shows a snapshot of energy production at this very moment. Currently only 2.8% of production is coming from coal. There is actually more energy coming from wind (3%) at this very moment. The coal plants that remain in operation are just being used as "peaking" plants and have been retrofitted with scrubbers that drastically reduce emissions.

Also from this link you can see a list showing changes in recent years to the energy mix. Notice all the coal plants that have been shut down.

http://www.ieso.ca/imoweb/media/md_supply.asp
Thanks for the correction!
 

RC8

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#9
Ontario's green record under the liberals is objectively very impressive.

When you consider that the population of Ontario has grown massively since 1990, and yet our total greenhouse gas emissions are now significantly below 1990 levels and decreasing, it's hard not to praise what has been accomplished.

Ontario has outperformed every other Canadian province on environmental issues during the period that the liberals have been in power:
http://www.ec.gc.ca/indicateurs-indicators/default.asp?lang=en&n=18F3BB9C-1

If the Big Move were to materialise as proposed, their legacy would be even greener. Policies like the greenbelt shouldn't be overlooked either, it required guts and insight to implement that as it was.
 
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#10
Ontario's green record under the liberals is objectively very impressive.

When you consider that the population of Ontario has grown massively since 1990, and yet our total greenhouse gas emissions are now significantly below 1990 levels and decreasing, it's hard not to praise what has been accomplished.

Ontario has outperformed every other Canadian province on environmental issues during the period that the liberals have been in power:
http://www.ec.gc.ca/indicateurs-indicators/default.asp?lang=en&n=18F3BB9C-1

If the Big Move were to materialise as proposed, their legacy would be even greener. Policies like the greenbelt shouldn't be overlooked either, it required guts and insight to implement that as it was.
A few things to correct. Firstly the Liberals were not in power in 1990 - Bob Rae was. Bob Rae was then succeeded by Mike Harris and then Ernie Eves. The Liberals would come to power in 2003 - The Liberals were in power for 10 years of the 23 years in question.

Secondly, if you look at the data provided there has not been a "significant" reduction in emissions below 1990 levels. The reduction has been a meager 3.5%.

Yes it is true that the population has grown significantly during this period but at the same time there has been a huge exodus of manufacturing companies (especially during the Liberal reign) and manufacturing plants were/are some of the biggest polluters. Also during this 23 year period coal fired plants were replaced with clean natural gas fired stations.

Dalton McGuinty did nothing to make Ontario greener. He did however make a lot of his friends (and I suspect even himself) a lot richer with his green energy scams ("fathered" by George Smitherman) that have looted $Billions from the Ontario treasury.

To see how these scams worked read about how a former Liberal Party of Ontario President (current federal President!) - a person with zero experience in the Power Generation industry received a $475 Million contract to provide wind energy to the province at ridiculously exorbitant rates - in essence a license to print money.

From the Queens Park Hansard:

http://pfrpo.ca/articles.php?command=print&ID=18502

Mr. Hampton: The McGuinty government has tried to make a big thing out of a little bit of wind energy, but what do we discover when we look at who is getting the contracts for the 300 or so megawatts of wind turbines? One Mike Crawley’s name comes to mind. Who is Mike Crawley? Mike Crawley has done just about every job that a Liberal hack could do. If you read his resumé — all you have to do is go to the federal Liberal Party’s Web site and it’s right there — he’s counted paperclips and he’s sharpened pencils, he’s answered the phone and he’s been the gofer for this and the gofer for that. He’s made his living being a Liberal hack.

What is he going to get for his dedicated work as a Liberal hack? He’s getting a $475-million guaranteed hydro contract at 8 cents a kilowatt hour, wholesale price. People wonder why their hydro bill is going to go up. Let me tell you, your hydro bill is going to go up because the McGuinty government is going to be busy shovelling money into the back pocket of this Liberal hack.
I believe the real green legacy of the McGuinty/Wynne Liberals is that they masterminded the biggest fraud against the people of Ontario in the history of this province. E-Health, Ornge, cancelled gas plants will look insignificant in comparison to the ten's of Billions plundered on green energy scams.

(Note: the above is just my personal opinion. I don't have specific knowledge or evidence of crimes committed by anyone mentioned above)
 
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RC8

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#11
Peepers,

The 1990 threshold is used by environmentalists and environmental economists as a standard. Emissions did not peak in 1990, they were much higher in 2004 (over 200Mt!). This is why now, in 2013 and with significant population growth, being about 4% under 1990 levels is impressive.

The value for 2011 was 170Mt, which means there's been a 16%+ reduction in total greenhouse gas emissions since the Liberals took over. Ontario alone, without any help from the federal government, almost met Kyoto-protocol goals.

Non-partisan expert analysts expected Ontario's emissions to reach 227Mt by 2014 in business as usual (pre-2003 policy) scenarios. If the conservative federal government is anything to go by, business as usual is exactly what we would have got in terms of policy. This is a difference of over 25% in terms of total greenhouse gas emissions in Ontario - which is massive!

Imagine if the nimbys empowered by the NDP and Conservatives hadn't killed the gas power plants, Ontario's numbers would be even more impressive then.

I do not altogether agree with many of the Liberal environmental policies (specially when it comes to transportation, where cars, buses, and trains have systematically been prioritised over pedestrians and cyclists), but having done plenty of research on the subject, the results are amongst the most impressive for any government at any level anywhere in North America.
 

Marko

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#12
The power factor of a transformer is almost completely defined by the load. A fully loaded transformer has a very high power factor, unloaded, its power factor decreases substantially, but this is easily compensated for by switching in banks of capacitors. Reactive loads, such as an SMPS should have active power factor correction, most modern SMPS's do.
A transformer is just one example, and you're right about modern units, but there's no requirement for transformers to have active PFC (or for how they're loaded - but that's probably going too far). Initiatives like LEED help, but they're voluntary. Even big companies like Philips and GE who advise governments on green initiatives fight against the requirement for high PFC because they can make more money selling a 70% device than a 90% device (for example...)

Many companies have aging industrial machinery that could be upgraded, but without retrofit programs or subsidies it's not in their interest to do anything since they pay for the apparent power only. If governments want to spend $ to go green, this is one of the better ways to do it. Money invested would lead to direct reductions in the power generated and they would narrow the gap between what they get paid for and what they have to produce. It would improve profitability even without increasing rates.

Again, just small examples. There are many better ways to actually get green than those that have been chosen.
 

Admiral Beez

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#13
On the other hand, it seems like these very goals have been the bane of the Liberals throughout their mandate. Their attempts to build alternative forms of power generation (natural gas, wind, etc) have been blocked or bogged down by NIMBYs at every turn
I'm all for alternative power generation, but why, oh why must we subsidize foreign corporations' power activities in Ontario? Why didn't we just build turbines, solar, etc. and tell the builders to sell the power at market rates?

http://business.financialpost.com/f...90-of-subsidies-funneled-to-just-11-companies

The damage to ratepayers for such policies has been significant. Since 2009 – when the GEA was introduced – ratepayers in Ontario have seen the commodity cost on their energy bills climb dramatically, with the regulated price of power over that time having increased on average by 56%, or just over 9% annually – more than five times the rate of inflation, making electricity price increases worse in Ontario than elsewhere in Canada.

To make matters worse, the high rates being pushed onto ratepayers has lowered demand for electricity across the province in recent years. That means Ontario now has a significant surplus of power, which it then exports to neighbouring jurisdictions at a loss. Ontario ratepayers are now subsidizing the energy consumption of households in America and other provinces.

Nearly everyone is losing when it comes to renewable energy in Ontario – except for those few companies that planted industrial wind turbines across the province and are receiving billions in subsidies for their effort.
 

Admiral Beez

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