The date is September 28, 2008 newly minted Ontario Minister of Energy and Infrastructure George Smitherman gushes over a vision of the future for green-energy in Ontario. In 2009 the Green Energy Act passes and is rapidly followed by 1 000s upon 1000s of industrial wind turbines erected. Ontario bowed to political push back by pausing installation of wind turbines in the Great Lakes. Today an offshore demonstration project looms with a build date of 2018. The project proposed in Lake Erie off Ohio’s shores.
Fast forward to 2017. Minister of Energy Glenn Thibeault admits mistakes were made by government with its green energy plan. Ontario holds tight to its energy vision of a green energy industry. Wind projects are forced onto unwilling host communities. Resident’s voices of opposition muted under renewable energy legislation. At the Federal level the wind industry is championed by many, including Minister of the Environment Catherine Mckenna. The Minister recently declined to take up pleas to review cumulative wind energy projects along the Great Lakes
From visions of green energy to build out of wind projects. What do you see?
The wind at his back
By TYLER HAMILTONClimate and Economy Reporter
Sat., Sept. 27, 2008
NIAGARA FALLS–In just nine weeks George Smitherman has likely learned more about the green-energy industry than any energy minister before him, and then some.
Sitting in a meeting room at the Sheraton Fallsview Hotel in Niagara Falls, just minutes after giving his first major speech since being appointed energy and infrastructure minister in June, Smitherman enthuses like a kid who has just returned from Euro Disney.
He recounts his visit to a small community in Denmark that powers and heats itself with straw, municipal waste and geothermal energy. Then there was the neighbourhood in Freiburg, Germany, powered by rooftop solar panels atop high-efficiency homes. In Spain, he saw how the local electricity operator manages the country’s 15,000 megawatts of wind turbines and a world-class stable of solar farms.
His travels also took him to California, where he learned how the world’s fifth-largest economy used innovative conservation programs and energy-efficiency mandates to keep per-capita electricity consumption flat for the last three decades.
“Imagine a world where we could emulate their success?” asks an animated Smitherman, 44, who later turns to Amy Tang, an adviser sitting across the table. “Sorry, now I’m getting all worked up. Am I frothing at the mouth?”
The trips didn’t end there. On his home turf, he has already visited the massive Prince Wind Farm in Sault St. Marie, the Atikokan coal-fired generating station near Thunder Bay, the province’s three nuclear power stations, the massive Nanticoke coal-fired station, Hydro One’s grid control centre in Barrie, and has been inside the Niagara Falls water tunnel currently being excavated by Big Becky.
“I call it sponging. I just went out there to try and learn as much as I possibly could,” he says. “Everything I do, I learn something that’s one more piece of, let’s face it, a complex puzzle.”
Smitherman says he’s “jazzed” about his new job, a fresh change after five years as health minister. Premier Dalton McGuinty made it a promotion, insiders say, by merging the energy and infrastructure portfolios into a super-ministry.