Port Lands plan heats up at public energy forum

The proposed Portlands Energy Centre (PEC) isn’t popular with many local residents, but it’s more energy efficient and environment friendly than most people think, according to one environmental group.

"Some people are opposed to a power plant (of any kind) in Toronto — period," said Jack Gibbons, chair of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance. However, "some people are not fully aware how clean the Portlands Energy Centre will be."

Gibbons was quick to point out that while his group favours energy conservation and clean, renewable energy solutions, such as wind and solar power, in the meantime, the gas-powered PEC is the best solution for Toronto.

His opinion is not popular with residents in the Beach, Riverdale and the Port Lands, many of whom oppose the 550-megawatt PEC, which the provincial government recently approved.

However, Gibbons said the PEC will reduce pollution, help phase out the Nanticoke coal-burning power plant more quickly and increase the amount of power generated in the city, thus reducing the likelihood of a blackout.

Gibbons took part in an April 12 panel discussion on energy. Not surprisingly, the local PEC was front and centre in that debate.

There is another proposal on the table for a 291-megawatt gas-powered plant in the old R. L Hearn Generating Station near Unwin Ave. and Cheery St.

According to Gibbons, this proposal "is a less efficient plan, with higher emission rates".

One of the reasons we need more energy, is because "the city uses 20 percent of all the power produced in Ontario, but virtually none (1.2 percent) of the energy is produced in Toronto, which makes us vulnerable if there’s another blackout in Ontario," he said.

The PEC will be capable of supplying 23 percent of downtown Toronto’s power needs, he added.

Everyone agrees Toronto and Ontario need more power as demand outweighs the current supply, and the province is warning of massive blackouts by 2008 if more energy plants are not built in the next two years.

However, some favour conservation as a way to reduce energy demand, and would like to see smaller, cleaner power plants built instead of one large one.

Speaking from point of view at the forum was local councillor Paula Fletcher, who outlined a 10-point green plan that was designed by a panel of experts assembled by the city.

Conservation is a big part of this alternative plan to avoid a power plant of any kind on the waterfront, said Fletcher.

She also spoke of micro-generation method, which consists of installing a series of smaller generators inside hospitals and office towers, as they consume most of the energy in the downtown area.

When demand for energy is higher, such as in the summer months when air conditioners are cranked high, these buildings would switch on their micro generators, which would remove them from the energy grid and free up energy for residents.

"There are a number of provincial regulations that would need to be changed to allow micro generators to be built," Fletcher said.

However, it can be done and she blames the province for pushing the PEC plan through when so many alternatives exist.

"They (province) are steadfastly refusing to pursue (alternatives) with the vigour that’s required," she said.

Although the province approved the PEC, the mayor, local councillors and residents continue to oppose it.

"There’s always time to do the right thing," said Fletcher.

Deputy mayor Sandra Bussin has been meeting with Ontario Energy Minister Donna Cansfield and other officials for months to try and come up with solutions and alternatives.

About this article:

By: Kris Scheuer
Posted: May 19 2006 3:30 am
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto