Coming soon: renewables

A Town Crier Community Column

Twenty years ago, if you had told me that we would be making almost all our calls from a palm-sized device that could also take photos and make and play videos — I’d have said you were reading too much science fiction.

Yet, here we are. And now renewable energy technologies like wind and solar are on the same tech trajectory as smart phones.

Climate change threatens to bring a big drop in our standard of living. We need a rapid transition to wind and solar energy, along with investment in efficiency and conservation. Without that commitment there is no credible climate plan.

If we want to rebuild the Ontario economy we have to move past imported fossil and conventional energy. We spend $40 billion a year on energy — most of that imported. In turn, we export tens of billions to Alberta, the Middle East and the United States. We need that money to build our own economy.

A century ago Toronto was the focus of a renewable energy revolution in Ontario.

Adam Beck, the founder of Ontario Hydro, knew that the new hydro electric technology would give Ontario power it could afford — power that would give it an advantage over other places. Toronto was the hub of support for his efforts. He fought the coal interests and the private power interests. His victory set the stage for a century of jobs and opportunity.

It won’t be any easier in this century, but we can redirect energy spending by reshaping our electricity system, by concentrating on efficiency, solar and wind power.

Efficiency costs three cents per kilowatt hour and beats every other option, economically and environmentally. New nuclear costs are 15 cents and more per kilowatt hour.

We also need to think about a broader range of renewable technologies. For instance, if you take in a basketball game at the Air Canada centre, or if you demand answers from a minister in the legislature, you are in a building cooled by water from the bottom of Lake Ontario.

We can cool buildings without running giant, energy-guzzling chillers. Not every city has a Great Lake as their free cooling source but they all have ground underneath that can act as a heat and cooling storage system. We can tap our own sources with low-cost, renewable technologies instead of spending billions to import coal, oil or natural gas.

A balance of low-cost renewables, like geo-thermal, and new renewables, like wind and solar, will keep us in the 21st century tech game. And in less than 20 years from now, energy without pollution won’t seem like science fiction.

About this article:

By: Peter Tabuns
Posted: Feb 22 2013 1:55 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto