Thursday and Friday this week, www.tomadamsenergy.com (and my dog) will be joining Peggy Petersen (and her dog) at Bala Falls protesting another of the Ontario Liberal’s green-at-any-cost follies — Swift River Energy’s subsidy-dependent plan to despoil the falls at the outlet of Lake Muskoka into the Moon River. I’ll be live Tweeting the protest from the falls and also live Tweeting from the Friday morning meeting of Township of Muskoka Lakes council (Twitter: @).
Here is our protest HQ and overnight accommodation. Please come visit. Appropriate clothing is recommended.
SaveBalaFalls.com is a wonderful source for information on community resistance to the ruin of Bala Falls. Here my previous review of the project, where a lively exchange between supporters and opponents of the project ensued. Here is my previous props to the Ontario Rivers Alliance, an organization committed to preserving natural river ecosystems. Here is the developer’s site for its Bala project.
There is not a single hydro-electric project of any size under development anywhere in Canada today that is beneficial to consumers. Those with contradictory views are welcome to present their evidence.
In October last year, I published with Professor McKitrick at the University of Guelph a paper on power pricing in Ontario. One of the surprising (to me) results of that work was the finding that over the last decade incremental hydro-electric generation has been performing much worse for Ontario consumers than even wind power. (Correction: Folks familiar with the editorial practice on this site may have noticed that when I make corrections I leave the original errors for posterity. This is an instance. When I composed this post originally, I mentally transposed the cost coefficients of wind and hydro-electric generation from the McKitrick/Adams study and reported water power as a worse deal for consumers than wind. Wrong. The study findings were that each additional 1 MW of new wind capacity added about $0.02/MWh to the Global Adjustment, after taking into account the offsetting effect of revenues from wind production whereas the impact of 1 MW of incremental hydro-electric over the last decade added about $0.015/MWh to the GA. Brain cramp.)
The obsolescence of new hydro-electric generation is not limited to Ontario. Upon completion of the financially ruinous Wuskwatim project in Manitoba, which cost two times the initial estimate, the government decided to commit to even more new remote hydros + transmission, with a get-them-hooked price tag $20 billion. Assuming no cost overruns, BC Hydro’s Site C looks about on par with Wuskwatim’s miserable track record. The government of Newfoundland & Labrador is going ahead with Muskrat Madness, a project likely to turn out so badly that it will make Joey Smallwood’s 1969 Upper Churchill deal with Hydro Quebec look smart by comparison.
There are a number of factors driving the obsolescence of new hydro-electric generation. The good sites are all developed. Power from natural gas is cheap, available on short lead times, and can be located close to loads which improves reliability and reduces transmission costs. Demand is flat. Boomeranging back from many historical electricity developments that seriously harmed many aboriginal people, rising demands for payments to aboriginal groups is another factor.
Although I am sceptical about the extra burdens on new hydro projects as incentives for aboriginal participation, I see an urgent need for truth and reconciliation concerning historical injustices. One element of that is better documenting Canada’s sad history of harm to aboriginal people as a result of careless hydro-electric and transmission developments. Cross Lake in Manitoba is an example where documentation is easily available and where reconciliation seems to be progressing. Here is more on Cross Lake.