The True Cost of Living in Ontario or Are Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives All Wet? by Jamie Labonte – September 26, 2011

CFN – There has been a lot of talk by all the parties about how to deal with the day to day challenges of living in Ontario not the least of which has been a discussion on the cost of living.  Whether it is the cost and availability of health care, the cost and quality of water, the cost/benefit of educating our children, the cost of generating and consuming electricity. The cost of infrastructure in general.

Cost is a very touchy subject. Why not? We are in a difficult recession. In response to european instability, the TSX just took a nosedive of four hundred and eighty points. The economy is as volatile as it has been since the great depression. The advice of the big money institutions has proven to be destructive to the global economy. We’re in the eye of a storm. The province is in a very serious discussion about costs right now. A lot of harsh criticisms have been leveled at our government by those who would seek to unseat it. A lot of these revolve around the cost of services. But how do we calculate cost? That’s the real question.

Conservatives are generally going to calculate cost as a function of how many dollars we spend for a given service. Seems reasonable enough. It’s empirical, it’s measurable and it’s something that can be kept in a book. It’s also wrong as it does not address the intangibles that each service provides and demands.

Social activists would tabulate cost as a function of how many people are harmed/helped by the service or lack of service. How many people are failing to get timely medical access, how many are without water, how well educated are we? This seems a reasonable measurement of cost because it concerns the qualitative human dimension. This is also wrong since it doesn’t take into account that the model has to be self-sustaining.

Conservatives feel that private and profit-driven entities will make the provision of essential infrastructure services streamlined, efficient and competitively priced. They believe that government will simply create a top-heavy bureaucracy that will fritter away public funds and not give value for dollars. They think excessive regulation is costly and inefficient. They do have a point to make here.

Do they have a point? Let’s look at two examples of water services…

In 1961 in Honduras, the state water and sanitation service was very badly set up, highly centralized, over-staffed, had poor inter-departmental communication and provided poor quality or service, bad morale and all-in-all created dissatisfied customers. Not the shining model of a public system.

In stepped the Inter-American Development Bank that promptly advised them to privatize. They wanted an outside agency to control and sell the water at a privately determined market price. The government of Honduras opted not to do this. What they did instead was to completely reorganize their service model. They got rid of the a top-heavy 35% of over-staffing, they decentralized oversight and made billing local. They increased the water cost to reflect actual cost of delivery and helped out the poorest of citizens by making the first 20 liters of water free of charge.

No one went without water, conservation was encouraged due to an affordable but not unrealistic price and due to more money in the system, quality was improved and they were able to stop enough leaks to prevent staggering 100 liters per second from being wasted. The net result was a revived public service that was saving millions of dollars and probably some lives.

This was a previously clunky public model that changed to improve it’s overall efficiency while still treating water as a valuable resource, a universal right and a sacred public trust. This was a truly positive change.

Some changes are not so positive.

In Ontario, we originally had a government controlled testing facility for managing water safety which worked reasonably well. Under the incoming Conservative government, the new theory was that public agencies should be economically self-sustaining (run like a for-profit business). Services like water-testing were thought to be too expensive for the government to handle as a not-for-profit model so they opted to contract out water-testing to a company in Arkansas.

This company presided over water-testing for Walkerton. Ontario removed itself from the information loop, only requiring the Arkansas lab to provide test results directly to the municipal water manager. In other words, there was little or no oversight. This proved to be a bad idea in that the result was death and extensive and prolonged suffering for many citizens. To be blunt, privatization and the off-loading of oversight to the municipality didn’t work out and the costs both financial and human were unacceptable.

Private models are capable of generating monetary profit but there is a fly in that ointment. Ultimately, profit is the sole factor in a majority of private entities. They are loyal to shareholders. Not consumers. This is not to say that a private system will not work. It’s just to say that historically, it has not saved money or improved services. On the contrary, privatization has generally resulted in lack of oversight, reduced state control and ironically, greater cost but monetarily and intrinsically.

Heavily subsidized public services that don’t reflect the proper cost of their provision can be just as bad. They can cause waste, needless bureaucracy and lack of oversight in the long run (as was described in the pre-reformed Honduran water service).

Not all private institutions operate badly and not all public ones operate well but there is a common thread that runs through the organizations that DO work well, however. This includes universality, fair pricing and sustainability. Put quite simply, does everyone get the product? Is the cost to deliver the product sustainable both financially/socially/environmentally? Mysteriously, profitability doesn’t enter into it. This is because when only a profit margin is observed, end-user costs invariably rise and quality goes down. It becomes a race to the bottom. The bottom line.

We have to establish that essential services are a public good, not a private commodity. The true cost must be reflected in the price. This cost should include that of future expansion, maintenance and retrofit to more clean and sustainable upgrades. If we don’t include this cost in the price, we either  get a collapse of system or a flagrant waste of the service by the end-user. Price should be a precise balance of these costs. When pricing an essential service, profit should NOT enter into it.

The model that is used should treat the Ontario user of the service as the boss. Not a third party investor. When governments stop treating you, the voter as their boss and start worrying more about their private interests, there is a conflict of interest and a failure to SUSTAIN a high level of essential services and in some cases, tragedy results.

This is not a diatribe on the merits of a public versus a private system. This is simply a frank and honest look at what happens when we don’t properly calculate the TRUE cost/value of an essential service.

We’ve seen change in Ontario before, with disastrous results (Walkerton, teachers strikes, debt retirement charge, blackouts) and we’ve seen change with great results (improved hospital wait times, smaller class sizes and a robust  electrical grid with time of use pricing).

Ultimately we have to decide if we were better off before or now. You will hear some say that their model is more cost effective. You are going to hear a lot of noise about how a certain profit-driven model will be more competitive and and efficient. This will be largely unsubstantiated. We have to look beyond the dollar cost promised and view each service in the larger context including what we pass on to our children.

Everyone promises change. You have to decide how much it’s going to cost you.  I mean the true cost.

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48 Responses to "The True Cost of Living in Ontario or Are Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives All Wet? by Jamie Labonte – September 26, 2011"

  1. Yvan   September 26, 2011 at 5:57 AM

    The increase in hydro pricing to consumers is one that no one can say without a doubt that it is/was needed. Many other jurisdictions pay much less per kw/h than we do WITHOUT SMART METERS!! Charging a “debt retirement fee“ long after the debt was paid off, all the while paying huge bonuses, golden handshakes and huge salaries to hydro management, is a slap in face of all rate payers. People are still waiting 5 years to see some health specialists. How is that improving wait times? More bureaucracy does not equate better service. It just means less service and slower service. It’s interesting how the bad Liberal decisions and policies are never brought to the fore.

  2. admin   September 26, 2011 at 6:01 AM

    Yvan you must not actually live in SD&SG where the overall cost for Hydro is lower because the largest city, Cornwall, gets its juice from Quebec.

  3. Yvan   September 26, 2011 at 6:10 AM

    I do live in South Stormont where my Hydro bill has increased by nearly 50$ a month since the installation of my sweet new Smart Meter…. Those of you living in Cornwall are in no position to talk about your Hydro bills as you are not on the Hydro One billing nightmare.

  4. admin   September 26, 2011 at 6:38 AM

    Yes, but we do make up the largest part of this riding so if you’re going to paint pictures maybe they should include us when in relation to hydro?

  5. Jamie Labonte   September 26, 2011 at 7:16 AM

    Well Yves, I DO use Hydro One’s billing and I can tell you that thanks to time of use pricing, I can offload my heavy usage to off peak hours. Something good for me and my pocketbook. Also, under Hudak’s plan, he would average out the times and tehrefore you would get a 38% increase in domestic rates and businesses would get reductions. Families would foot the bill….yet again.

    Not everything is what it seems in Hudak-onomics

  6. Jamie Labonte   September 26, 2011 at 7:26 AM

    Oh and another thing…Yves, where are you getting that the debt retirement charge is paid off?!!! Harris gave us that little nugget because when he spun off our generation to various private companies, they refused to shoulder the toxic debt so Harris passed that onto us. (Thanks last Conservative Ontario government!). We won’t be paid off for another couple of years.

    As for hospital wait times, it’s proven that we have shorter wait times and for all the criticism of e-health, it is a required modernization and should have been done decades ago. As for telehealth, this is a very intelligent way to help assess people before they head to the emergency room.

    As I said in the article, you CAN have a clunky public system and you CAN have a more efficient public system. You can also have an American style system that works very very well….as long as you never get sick.

  7. smee   September 26, 2011 at 11:48 AM

    Jamie L
    I am not sure why you think the province should be responsible for Walkerton.

    In instance such as this, restrictions and guidelines have been set and built by many different governments. If local and or municipal entities had done their due diligence it would have never happened. Walkerton knew they had water issues but refused to take the necessary steps.
    Would the problem have been fixed any sooner if it had gone through the province??

    Another good example of why government should not be involved was recently displayed by Mr Harper with regards to Chalk river.

    The Social parties were in part cause for the Walkerton incident, Bob Rae and company reduced the water standards in an attempt to save costs.

    Not to leave Rae in the wind, rules were in place that Walkerton did not follow.

    Private entities and fees for service can work; we just need to minimize the nonsense, politics and underworked overpaid management. Government is not supposed to manage our systems; they should only ensure they are run to the standards and legislation set forth. That way we can dump a whole whack of unnecessary government officials saving billions

    But one of the most important things to eliminate is accountants.

  8. Jamie Labonte   September 26, 2011 at 1:04 PM

    Smee, under Mike Harris, the province abdicated all responsibility for water quality so in point of fact….they were decidedly NOT responsible for Walkerton. Is there some sort of confusion there?

    Before the privatisation of water testing, the province was overseeing the test results so instead of going to an untrained, functionally illiterate family member of the city manager, it would have gone to trained government personel so…..yeah it would have been better. Again…is there some sort of confusion you have about this?

    As I said, not all private entities are badly run. Some have mission and vision statements and charters that prtect certain rights. Starbucks comes to mind…however they are the exception that proves the rule.

    Just to prove that I’m not trying to be partisan here, Joe Clark a progressive Conservative has written extensively about activist corporate models and how they are finding a third path. I am certainly not against this…however to trust corporate entities to follow this path of their own volition is at best naive and at worst dangerous.

    I think that your assertion that government run services are inherently more wasteful and costly than private ones is not supported by facts. Certainly in healthcare, we’ve proven amply that the public system can be several orders of magnitude more efficient.

    But alas there’s no convincing the free market capitalists of this. The entire economy has gone to the dogs and there are still the Ron Paul’s of the world telling everyone that the market needs to be freer and the rules are too strict.

    As Jamie Gilcig says, some people can’t be convinced that water is wet.

  9. Yvan   September 26, 2011 at 5:12 PM

    My point Jamie, is that had the Liberal government bought the extra hydro from Quebec instead of putting us in further debt with the wind and solar schemes, we would had seen better rates than what we have now and even in the future. You are so hell bent on blaming Harris for the current predicaments we are in that you can’t even see the crisis Mr McGuinty has put us in, and put the blame where the blame should lie: at the Liberal doorstep.

  10. Darcy Neal Donnelly   September 26, 2011 at 5:14 PM

    If we had our choice, what would we choose; a Free Market, A Mix Market or a Controlled Market? In a free market buyers set standards that sellers must voluntary match. In a mix market both some buyers and some sellers set the standards that are voluntary or mandatory set and met. In a controlled market only sellers set standards including the mandatory acceptance by buyers. We are forced to wait for health care, we are forced to meet education standards, we are force to accept Hydro One and we are forced to use only one money.

    We have not lived and worked in a free market environment for a very long time but the free market will spontaneously introduce new ideas, services, products and whole new industries even when it is restricted by the controlled market monopolies. In your article, you try to promote a mix market as the best market environment. I disagree.

    It was the voluntary effort of nuns that created hospitals in a free market, the controlled market took over hospitals. It was the volunteer efforts of priest and parents that created schools, the controlled market took over. It was the voluntary effort of the entrepreneur that created hydro services in a free market environment, the controlled market took over. It was the voluntary effort of free traders that created money in a free market environment, the controlled market took over. It still is the voluntary effort of two free people to create new babies in a free market environment. The controlled market is trying to take over the last of our personal freedoms.

    A mix market only exit because the controlled market has taken over the creations produced in the free market. Go ahead and identify a whole new industry that was created in the controlled market that was voluntary accepted by the free market people. The mix market is the battlefield between the free market and the controlled market. Which market do you believe will spontaneously create new ideas, services, products and industries to feed your precious mix market? The free market or the controlled market. It’s your choice.

  11. Yvan   September 26, 2011 at 5:24 PM

    And by the way, I work in the swimming pool business and can attest that water is wet and I can also add 2 plus 2. I may not be as educated as either of you but I can read and have been able to read since the age of 3. McGuinty still lied to us when he promised no new taxes and then reneged. He can’t even do his research when he claimed to have invented full day kindergarten.

    And also Jamie G., You must take Cornwall out of the equation when you consider hydro prices in Eastern Ontario. You are billed by Cornwall Hydro who then pays Hydro Quebec. None of that goes to Hydro One or any of the OPG suppliers. I may have been born at night but that was not last night. You guys living in the Cornwall Hydro service area are nowhere near paying the rates the rest of us are paying in the rest of Eastern Ontario.

  12. admin   September 26, 2011 at 5:49 PM

    Darcy there is no such thing as a free market. It’s like hunters in the arctic talking about their heritage while shooting seals with guns from snow mobiles. That free market you’re talking about is based on using the infrastructure that we all pay for. Can things be improved? Yes. Should there be more accountability in the system? Absolutely. Do I want your personal Darcy currency. Nyet 🙂 The value of currency or goods is based on the most common perception of value. So are you buying an election ad with us? 🙂

  13. Yvan   September 26, 2011 at 6:14 PM

    Jamie G., a quick Google search revealed to me that CFN is single-handedly handling the Mark A. MacDonald campaign publicity. You have the most articles on this single candidate in all of Cornwall’s news outlets…. combined….

  14. admin   September 26, 2011 at 6:36 PM

    Yvan that’s not quite true. Remember we are open to all platforms. For example our MP Mr. Lauzon refuses to speak to myself or anyone that works for CFN; even when I’ve used Conservative members to address him.

    It takes two or more to tango. Politicians and media build relationships. Good relationships yield more than poor ones. Smart politicians don’t alienate any media especially when they understand how important Freedom of the Press is in this world.

  15. Jamie Labonte   September 26, 2011 at 7:38 PM

    Darcy, your premise that in a “free market” (a fairytale scenario), buyers set the price. When a monopoly exists, this is simply not the case. Sellers set the price.

    Also, you have to consider that this is not a “buyers market” as in the housing market where the buyer can take or leave the deal….this is essential services you’re talking about. By definition, sellers own a captive market.

    Talking about mixed, free, controlled is a red herring. The only thing that matters is that the service price is reflected in the TRUE COST (as my article mentions) of the provision of that service. This includes monetary cost as well as qualitative costs to the consumer…ie….is the service good, is there an unfavourable risk to benefit ratio….it this sustainable.

    In my opinion, regardless of what party gets elected, they need to liberate the captive market by generating power themselves so that we don’t NEED to go to outside sources (Quebec) to get it.

    A good pilot/driver looks at the road ahead….not two feet from the front of the car so they can see what’s coming up….massive electrical usage is coming with the EV infrastructure on the horizon. The pressure to reduce carbon emissions is also competing with this increase demand that is looming. When the demand becomes higher, we’ll be ever more captive and forced to pay higher rates than we already do.

    In my opinion, any party that improves our energy independence is showing that they are looking to the road ahead…and not myopically following the yellow line. So far, only one party is doing that.

    Guess who

  16. Yvan   September 27, 2011 at 5:32 AM

    Quote: “In my opinion, regardless of what party gets elected, they need to liberate the captive market by generating power themselves so that we don’t NEED to go to outside sources (Quebec) to get it.”

    At the rate Dalton is going, $0.80 per kw/hr is a lot more than what we could buy it from Quebec as you guys in Cornwall can attest to. Installing inefficient generating sources like wind and solar is not the way to go. The wind does not always blow and the sun does not always shine. Investing in new hydro-/gas-/nuclear-generating plants is far more efficient and cheaper in the long run as the can 1: for some types be turned on and off at will and 2: produce electricity night or day, wind or not. Wind and solar is fine for those individuals who want to go on their own off the grid or in remote areas but not as part of the provincial grid. Anybody thinking wind and solar is even an option is delusional at best.

  17. Jamie Labonte   September 27, 2011 at 10:07 AM

    Hydro plants eventually silt up and have massive environmental impact on our watersheds. Nuclear and gas/coal have obvious issues as they produce toxic waste that is costly to store and risky to contain.

    Solar produces on even the cloudy days and win in certain coastal areas never stops producing. You have your facts backwards.

  18. Jamie Labonte   September 27, 2011 at 10:10 AM

    Did you know that coal ash is rich in cyanide and strychnine? We produce football fields of the stuff when we burn coal…so on top of the carbon emissions and the cancer causing poly-aromatic hydrocarbons coming out of it’s smoke, we also have solid waste to contend with. Coal is not cheap. The TRUE cost….is very expensive indeed.

  19. Randy Cross   September 27, 2011 at 4:07 PM

    This Jamie Labone is not telling the truth…His Liberal bias is showing….
    Why don’t we buy our hydro from Quebec or Manitoba at 6 cents per kwh….It’s cheaper and more reliable that green energy…which is expensive and unreliable …

  20. Randy Cross   September 27, 2011 at 4:30 PM

    Smog Deaths: 0
    Air pollution poses a serious health risk to Toronto residents, right? Wrong, says a new study that should change the way to look at the issue
    Ross McKitrick
    Financial Post
    Thursday, February 05, 2004

  21. Jamie Labonte   September 27, 2011 at 9:37 PM

    I think I have a stalker…this guy has been blocked from my Facebook account for harassment.

    Randy Cross says:
    September 27, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    This Jamie Labone is not telling the truth…His Liberal bias is showing….
    Why don’t we buy our hydro from Quebec or Manitoba at 6 cents per kwh….It’s cheaper and more reliable that green energy…which is expensive and unreliable …

    As unreliable as coal fired energy that resulted in a blackout in 2003, Randy? Both Quebec and Ontario and parts of the U.S. blacked out for 6 days straight. It showed how weak our infrastructure actually was. The then energy minister was John Baird (in the Ernie Eves PC government) who hid from reporters during that time.

    Since then we have had no across the board outages and actually produced record amounts of electricity.

  22. Jamie Labonte   September 27, 2011 at 9:44 PM

    Randy, you do know that coal fired plants produce tons of toxic strychnine and cyanide ash, don’t you? They are so toxic and hard to contain that accidents in the U.S. have destroyed the water table of entire cities.

    Fracture drilling of natural gas deposits has rendered well water in similar areas….FLAMABLE. That’s right. Water that you can light and burn due to the fracking process.

    The fact is that burning coal and natural gas to produce electricity is killing entire communities.Yes, it’s a slow process. Much like the global warming process….that the majority of scientists concur exists….except the ones that work for the coal, oil and gas industry.

    So folks, if you are like me and you want your kids to be able to drink water, breathe air without poly-aromatic hydrocarbons in it or suffer from a blackout in the dead of winter, then support a greener more sustainable energy infrastructure……or you can join ranks with my stalker Randy Cross…..who apparently needs a companion….Hey Randy….I hear Christian Mingle is a great site for that.

  23. Yvan   September 28, 2011 at 6:04 AM

    Does the sun shine 24 hours a day in your world Jamie?I believe it is you who should stop listening to the Liberal rhetoric and get your facts straight. I have some solar panels at my shop. Yes, they produce energy when it’s cloudy at less than 1/3 what they can produce at the proper angle in direct sunlight. But the kicker is: AT NIGHT THEY PRODUCE ZERO ENERGY!!!

  24. Yvan   September 28, 2011 at 6:07 AM

    Wind mills don’t work when there is no wind and when there is too much wind, they get shut down. While it is true that old coal fired plants were very bad, new technology practically eliminates toxicity.

  25. Randy Cross   September 28, 2011 at 7:39 AM

    Jamie…I was blocked from your Facebook accout by you only…nobody else….when I disagreed with you opinion you decided to have a hissy fit….you then blocked me and removed all your comments…So it’s OK for people to have an opinion or state facts….unless you disagree with them…Seem hypocritical to me….

  26. admin   September 28, 2011 at 7:44 AM

    Randy you’re a foul mouthed idiot. That’s why I defriended you on facebook. That’s the only reason. Life is way too short to waste on people like you. Grow a brain and then maybe we can chat.

  27. Eric   September 28, 2011 at 7:58 AM

    A drunk, under educated for the role, altered water analysis records before his boss (brother) could see them or pass them on for inspection. Town water pipes (wells) were not protected from nearby animal pastures and were too close to ground level. These factors were then combined with unusual freak storms that infiltrated the water supply. Also, the medical elements did not pick up on the problem soon enough. That is my understanding of Walkerton.

    These windmill poles are over 250 feet high with blades of 148 feet each or 300 feet radius and judging by the project list, will be in groups of 6 plus. Are they being constructed in Ontario with our materials or are they only being assembled here? Where does the electricty come from to start the blades or deice them etc. There are many factors that are needed to work out a postive or negative gain for the province. I do not see them as price effective for the return.
    By the way, I have a property on Hydro One pricing and have seen the price for comparable use, up 50 dollars per month from last year.( even with the 10% off that we will need to pay back eventually)

    Coal plants have super scrubbers on their stacks now, even better than ones Domtar put on in Cornwall years ago.

  28. Jamie Labonte   September 28, 2011 at 10:35 AM

    Apparently Randy is unclear that hurling expletives is considered abuse of facebook…and won’t let it go. That’s too bad.

  29. Jamie Labonte   September 28, 2011 at 10:43 AM

    Eric those are good points about wind power. Yes you’re quite right about factoring in hidden costs. That’s part of what my initial article is about. Wind power isn’t a magic solution….and yes I do know that the average span of time for solar cells to generate charge is 5 hours a day…less during some months. And yes, of course I know that power drops when it’s cloudy.

    I’m a little more up on this stuff than you might think….what you might not know is that there is a test bed for new solar collectors called quantum dot solar panels at the National Research Council in Ottawa that is giving approcimately 100% more wattage per square foot. Tech. is coming doen the tube right now that will be game changing. If ONtario wants to be at the front of the curve, we need to invest in it.

    Hudak’s suggestion that we can simply follow is not credible. No one ever cornered the market by following the curve.

    As for full costing of Coal and Natural gas versus Wind, Eric makes good points. The energy density of a turbine is much lower than is a coal fired plant however net energy gain after fuel and waste are transported and paid for might surprise you.

    The conservative view is going to be that it’s too expensive to shift to green technology. My view is that it’s too costly to let the status quo remain.

  30. Yvan   September 28, 2011 at 4:50 PM

    Wouldn’t it be better to invest in Plasco gassification? This would not only produce more reliable energy 24/7, but it would also take care of the garbage issues facing many communities. They can be installed within city boundaries further reduce fuel consumption by not having to transport garbage sometimes hundreds of kilometers.

    By the way, I had a conversation with a Hydro One linesman earlier this summer in Winchester, and he mentioned that all those MicroFIT installations are causing them major problems as the grid was originally designed as a one-way delivery network but since those FIT systems inject power ad-hoc and in reverse flow. Since they can’t be turned off in a surge situation, they can and have caused outages.

    Ignoring new and proven technologies just to appease a few tree huggers is not the way to go. It is madness and throwing good money to the wind.

  31. Jamie Labonte   September 28, 2011 at 8:19 PM

    Yvan, that’s a great technology too. McGuinty also invested in Gassification and plasma burning. When he did so, John Tory panned the idea because he thought it was environmentally unfriendly. The main problem with the objections to green energy projects is the lack of understanding about them. Some people can’t be convinced that green energy can also be economically viable. That is changing.

  32. Jamie Labonte   September 28, 2011 at 8:21 PM

    Yvan, I humbly submit that that’s not the case. All grid inter-ties have a grid power sensor that prevents it from feeding in when the grid loses power. This is to protect linemen from getting electic shock from inter-ties….so I’m calling shananigans on that one.

  33. Yvan   September 28, 2011 at 9:03 PM

    We are not talking about the same thing. What this guy told me was that the grid was having issues with having to deal with receiving power from another source in this case the FIT systems. Don’t-cha love journalists who think they’re electricians all of a sudden?

  34. Jamie Labonte   September 29, 2011 at 1:41 PM

    There is a breaking in period for every new system. As for a system that is only one-way, that’s precisely why we’re upgrading that system. A smart system accepts power as well as doles it out.
    I’m sorry, I’m confused. Are you an electrician, Yvan?

  35. Jamie Labonte   September 29, 2011 at 1:42 PM

    The reason I say that is that I know many electricians that aren’t trained in grid inter-ties and have no idea how to install one. Maybe your electrician friend is one of those.

  36. Yvan   September 29, 2011 at 5:07 PM

    I’m not a licensed electrician but have worked alongside many over the last 30 odd years. I have a great deal of experience with electrical systems having to troubleshoot electrical problems and installing swimming pool equipment. I have some experience and a great deal of knowledge in solar energy, and the resulting issues relating to the quality of the current produced. The man I spoke with works for Hydro One on the grid maintenance and repairs. He does not install the FIT systems but has to deal with the repercussions.

    I guess what I’m getting at, is how so many people get all gun-ho about solar systems when the current technology is nowhere near what it should be for the province to start funding installations. This technology is too inefficient at the moment to be thought of as a front line leading power source for any city, let alone a province. Like I mentioned before, I have a small system at my shop and it is used to power lights and a computer. Those systems should only be installed for household or industrial use to lower their dependance on the grid, not to supplement the grid. They alone should be footing the bill for them. They alone should benefit from the extra power, not the rest of the province subsidizing their power source choices.

    When I see all those new FIT systems popping up here and there, all I can see is my hydro bill going up because of them.

  37. Yvan   September 29, 2011 at 5:08 PM

    By the way, those systems have a limited lifespan of 15 to 25 years at most.

  38. Yvan   September 29, 2011 at 5:14 PM

    And also the manufacturing process to produce the cells alone requires many toxic chemicals. I doubt the energy required to manufacture a single solar panel can ever be produced by that solar panel in its lifetime…. Someone may have the answer for that….

  39. bobgeneric   September 29, 2011 at 7:36 PM

    @Jamie L., I have to call shenanigans on some of your information too. Just so we are straight I am a liberal supporter but McGuinty and crew have no idea how to run the electrical system in Ontario, that being said neither do the Tories or NDP.
    JL said,
    “As unreliable as coal fired energy that resulted in a blackout in 2003, Randy? Both Quebec and Ontario and parts of the U.S. blacked out for 6 days straight. It showed how weak our infrastructure actually was. The then energy minister was John Baird (in the Ernie Eves PC government) who hid from reporters during that time.
    Since then we have had no across the board outages and actually produced record amounts of electricity. “
    ~
    ~
    The blackout was not caused by Thermal generation, or Ernie Eves as you suggest. Thermal generation is very reliable, the turbines very robust.
    The blackout was a direct cause of faulty relaying (protections that trip line loads and generation like the breaker in your house detects fault current) and restoration plans that were never updated when Ont Hydro was split into three entities.
    That, I understand has been addressed and yearly restoration meetings/training sessions are held to keep updated and uncover any problems. Black start capabilities (starting a generator with no external power from the grid, which hampered putting the grid back together hence the 6 day blackout) that were lost with advances in technology have been restored around the province.
    ~
    Solar power is great for charging batteries and running electronics but it cannot sustain the grid in Ont even if they are 100 percent efficient.
    The reason is that Solar Panels have no spinning inertia which is what keeps the grid stable and at 60 hertz.
    It is the physical weight of the turbines, be them powered by water or steam that keeps the grid stable.
    Ontario is still a manufacturing province and manufacturers have machines and all machines run motors, some of them quite large. When a large motor is started the physical weight of the rotor of that motor must spin and this takes a force of electricity greater than the weight of the rotor.
    Think of it as every generator and motor tied into the grid is connected by a big fan belt, which in effect it is….only the fan belt is made of electrons.
    A Solar panel has zero spinning inertia and wind turbines built to be lightweight do not have enough spinning inertia to combat the physical weight of spinning load on the grid.
    Solar doesn’t work at night so electricity has to be stored in huge battery banks…..have you considered the environmental cost of the batteries?
    When the sun is shining and the temperature goes up to 30-40, the Air conditioning load goes up, where is the wind power? Shut down, as there is is very little wind on the very hottest days of the year.
    So what does that leave? We need big turbines with enough physical weight to keep the grid stable. It is just simple math and physics.
    So, if not coal, oil or natural gas, well that only leaves Nuclear.
    This is the problem with our three political parties as well as the majority of the rate payers in Ont. is that, except for the insiders, no one really understands the Electrical system or the mucked up market we have. And unfortunately the insiders work for Hydro One and OPG not the Provincial government.

  40. bobgeneric   September 29, 2011 at 9:33 PM

    Jamie L again I am calling shenanigans on this too.
    “Well Yves, I DO use Hydro One’s billing and I can tell you that thanks to time of use pricing, I can offload my heavy usage to off peak hours”
    ~
    Biggest uses of electricity in your home are hot water heater, range/stove, AC, heating if you heat with electricity, dryer and washer, dishwasher.
    Since almost half of your bill is debt retirement and delivery the most you could really off set is about 20%-30% and that would involve eating, showering and doing laundry at night after 9 pm. Your savings would go down if you performed these activities between 7-9 pm.
    According to the Electricity usage pamphlet we received explaining price and smart meters and average family of four doing 5-7 loads of laundry a week would save 80-100 dollars a year by offsetting this chore until after 9 pm.
    Most of the people I know already ran their dishwasher after 11 pm when they go to bed due to noise etc.
    Your lighting TV load already was after 7pm for most households so what other chores you do during the day that you shifted to night time???
    ~
    My wife is a stay at home Mom and says she is being punished for such….so instead of her day of taking care of a house hold ending at 7 pm when the dishwasher is loaded and set to go on delay as it has been for years now she has to work late into the night to finish her chores?
    ~
    We worked out our usages and offset prices and have totaled out usage savings. With a smart meter the most electricity use an average household can offset in reality is about 30%. The difference in price is about 20 a month or 240 a year.
    I told my wife to use electricity when it is convenient for her.
    ~
    Smart meters are nothing but a disguised price increase in electricity rates under the false guise that we actually control our own destiny.

  41. Yvan   September 29, 2011 at 9:39 PM

    New hydro dams should be considered as well. If the environmental impact studies are done right, I’m sure some rivers flowing north near James Bay could be harnessed just as Quebec did in the 70s and 80s. Worried about the impact on Native communities? Partner up with them so that they could be part of the operation and decision making.

  42. bobgeneric   September 29, 2011 at 11:26 PM

    Yves,
    There really are no untapped river systems in Northern Ontario that could be utilized for big hydro electric projects. Environmental assessments/engineering costs/infrastructure costs and even the dam construction costs are similar whether you are building a station that produces 50 MW or 500 MW.
    Northern Quebec is filled with large river systems which made possible for that province to generate almost all of their electrical needs and then some with hydroelectric.
    Northern Ontario is not. Although there are small river systems that could potentially be utilised they would be small MW producers and would just not be cost effective.
    Northern Ontario and Northern Quebec do not share identical geographies.
    So again that leaves what? Nuclear or fossil fuels.

  43. bobgeneric   September 29, 2011 at 11:30 PM

    @Jamie L.
    Further info, the black out in 03 did not include Hydro Quebec. HQ is not connected to the Ontario Grid.

  44. Roy Berger   September 30, 2011 at 11:21 AM

    Bob’s right, Jamie. During the 2003 Eastern Seaboard black out Montrealers watched people, on TV in Toronto, walk home from work by the millions. I don’t think the black out was created by the function of using coal. The black out was caused by the echo of The Philadelphia Experiment which was developed by Einstein and Tesla, that or a squirrel that got loose in power station. There should be a similar black out in mid-August 2023.

    A more frightening scenario is what happens to the grid during a coronal mass ejection from the sun. Our transformers are poorly grounded against this event. C.M.E.’s do occur from time to time. As we increase our dependance on a grid bereft of a simple Faraday cage we heighten the threat. It would cost about two billion dollars over three years, in Ontario, to protect it.

    https://www.createspace.com/3650102

    http://www.amazon.com/Rabbits-Happy-Apocalypse-Shortwave-ebook/dp/B005CBFR9G

  45. bobgeneric   September 30, 2011 at 12:15 PM

    Roy, although Solar flares can wreak havoc on very long transmission lines, space stations, astronauts and satellites it is rare that it would actually cause a power outage.
    It takes extremely long transmission lines to be effected by these large magnetic fields to the point of tripping off and causing a power outage.

    It happened to Hydro Quebec in 1989, but we have to remember Northern Quebec is where the generation is and the St. Lawrence River is where the load is located.

    Ontario has a large population in the north but Quebec does not. Ontario, since it has load where generation is located it can be run separate from the rest of the grid (island) in different parts mitigating any black out effects of losing the long transmission lines that tie one generation/load centre to another.
    I understand that North Western Ontario is often running in an Island situation due to regular storms.

    As for these sun blasts causing damage to transformers or associated electrical equipment, well that is what electrical protection and relaying equipment is for, to mitigate potential damage.

  46. Yvan   October 1, 2011 at 12:59 PM

    Thank you Bob. I was not aware of the limitations in Ontario’s waterways.

  47. Jamie Labonte   October 4, 2011 at 8:50 AM

    Sorry Guys! I’d like to debate this further with you, (I have lots to respond with) but Jamie Gilcig is editing anything I say. I suspect this post will vanish too. Congratulations guys. You get the last word.

    RIP Freedom of Speech….you shall be missed.

  48. bobgeneric   October 4, 2011 at 12:59 PM

    @Jamie L…..your accusations that Jamie G. is editing your posts so you can’t debate sounds more like:
    “I would love to debate more with you guys but my misinformation has been outed and people are on to me that I really don’t know what I am talking about.” As I doubt very much that jG edited anything other than your letter to the editor which all news papers do.
    ~
    So its see ya without even admitting that you didn’t take the time to research even the blackout….just made up the facts as you go.

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