Residents of Bala, located about a two hours drive north of Toronto, say they have nothing against hydro power, but fear the $23-million facility and its construction will destroy the tiny town’s main attraction: the falls that lure curious eyeballs and day-tripper cash, wrote The Globe and Mail Aug. 2:
This is one local battlefield of Ontario’s Green Energy Act, whose subsidy program prioritizes small-scale green-energy projects over larger, dirtier ones. In a matter of months, the province has made itself the best place on the continent to make a business case for green energy.
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The irony is these mini-projects set the stage for hundreds of confrontations with small communities that balk at the prospect of a power plant or wind farm upsetting their delicate equilibrium.
“Going to a system which relies on more distributed sources of generation, lots of smaller facilities as opposed to one big one, the worst consequence is you do exacerbate the potential for these social conflicts,” said York University renewable energy policy professor Mark Winfield. “Instead of trying to build one big gas facility in Oakville, you’re potentially building 100 wind turbine sites, each of which has the potential to turn into a little donnybrook. “
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It doesn’t help that there’s no clear picture of what Ontario’s future energy needs are: Demand is waning, or at least not growing as quickly as predicted, thanks to the recession and successful, aggressive energy-conservation programs. Capricious natural gas prices that haven’t been rising as much as planned combine with costs (and risks) of long-term nuclear commitments that skyrocketed higher than hypothesized means predicting the province’s energy load decades into the future is a mug’s game.
This makes it far more difficult to weigh the benefits against the costs of projects like Bala Falls, Prof. Winfield says.
“Developing Bala Falls maybe means we don’t have to build a gas or nuclear plant – then you might look at it differently. ... [But] there’s no overall context or plan in which each of these individual projects are evolving; there’s no framework to determine whether you need it or not.”
The complete article is available on globeandmail.com.