The Globe and Mail
TORONTO -- Air pollution will get far worse in
Ontario because the opening of the electricity market
will encourage power production from dirty, coal-burning
generating stations, the Toronto Environmental Alliance
The province's $10-billion electricity market opens
for competition for the first time today, and the
group says the development favours cheap but high-polluting
power from coal stations rather than clean energy
from wind turbines, solar cells and small-scale
hydro electric stations.
"The way the Tories are doing this is going
to result in more air pollution in this province
and it's actually going to inhibit bringing in better
environmental policies in the future," said
Keith Stewart, a spokesman for the group.
Many environmentalists are concerned about the
deregulated electricity market as price will now
be the sole factor determining the type of generating
capacity used to slake Ontario's thirst for electricity.
Coal stations typically produce lower-cost electricity
than cleaner-running natural-gas-powered stations,
or green power from wind turbines, because market
prices don't reflect health and environmental damage
from air pollution.
Currently, Ontario's five coal-fired power plants
and one dual natural-gas-oil-fuelled plant, all
owned by the government through Ontario Power Generation,
operate at about 50 per cent of capacity, yet produce
about 14 per cent of Ontario's smog-causing nitrogen
oxides, and about 23 per cent of its acid rain causing
sulphur dioxide, the alliance said.
The group is worried that the province's coal stations,
several of which are on the auction block, will
soon be run at higher operating rates due to competitive
It believes the private investors who buy the stations
will try to earn a better return by cranking up
their output. The stations could sell their extra
juice to the United States, where prices have generally
been higher than in Ontario.
John Earl, spokesman for Ontario Power Generation,
said the company will generally offer for sale power
from its low-cost hydro-electric and nuclear-power
stations before the output of its coal-fired stations.
The company's natural-gas capacity is the most expensive
and will be offered for sale last.
He said it is "impossible to say" what
the operating rates of the coal stations will be
in an open market because new suppliers could undercut
the economics of operating these plants.
The alliance issued a report yesterday in which
it called on the government to encourage power production
from clean sources. Among its recommendations is
a proposal that Ontario require a certain percentage
of its electricity to come from renewable sources,
such as wind, solar, and small-scale hydro-electric
plants. Twelve U.S. states have these so-called
renewable portfolio standards.