Wrong way round

A truly independent local paper is now a rarity in Ontario.

The Wellington Times is the best I know of, so I was well flattered to see my name, and original content blog, in Rick Conroy’s Wrong Way Round:

Bit by bit, the Ontario government is recognizing the futility of its renewable energy strategy. Still, it can’t help but throw more public tax dollars at developers eager to cash in at our expense.

This week, the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) announced it was letting five contracts worth a total of $42 million to develop electricity storage technologies. The money will be used to develop a dozen demonstration projects around the province designed to capture and release energy— schemes that use batteries, hydrogen, flywheels and even bricks. Yes, bricks.

The problem is that none of these technologies work—certainly not on a scale sufficient to serve a regional electricity grid. Nor is Ontario the first to dabble in the search for this Holy Grail. Every jurisdiction that has dabbled in intermittent energy sources such as wind and solar has grappled with the same dilemma; what to do when the sun doesn’t shine and wind doesn’t blow?

It would have been wiser and more productive had these jurisdictions pooled their money to solve this problem before each erected forests of industrial wind turbines and covered vast tracts of land with solar panels. This may seem obvious with hindsight—except I, and many others, made this same point in in 2006.

Of course, it is far too simplistic to limit the challenge of intermittent electricity sources to its inherent unpredictability. The bigger issue is that it messes with the entire system— not just with the wires and transformers, but with the way we buy and sell electricity. How we match demand with supply.

On most days, we generate enough electricity to serve the province from our hydro dams and our nuclear power stations. Yet wind turbines and solar panels continue to push useless electricity into the grid. The excess must be dumped or the entire system is put at risk. It is why we spend about a billion dollars each year paying Ontario’s neighbours to take our energy. Now we also pay wind and solar energy producers to disconnect themselves from the grid.

Scott Luft does a great job on his blog Cold Air chronicling and describing the challenges that intermittent electricity wreaks upon Ontario’s system. He makes the point, backed by closely observed data, that the IESO has effectively lost its bearings.

The statement surprised me, but after reflecting on it, I think it’s a good description of what I’ve been chronicling lately – intentionally or not. 

Please continue reading Rick Conroy’s article at The Wellington Times

I will note I’ve written more quick pieces on Cold Airings lately – while Cold Air has been relatively quiet. The last 5 posts there could be seen as pointing to a decline at the IESO:

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