Blackle is a brilliantly simple way to save power. Based on claims that if the background on the Google homepage alone were black, 750 megawatts a year would be saved (a sizable windfarm). Blackle.com is just like google.com, but with a black background.

Which brings me to this little gem. It’s a piece about green power generation in Ontario from an industry insider in today’s Spectator. It’s so riddled with typical energy industry tripe that it’s painful. For instance, he claims that:

The government was told two years ago in a report by the Ontario Energy Authority (OEA) that “wind and solar power will never be more than a niche supplier of power in Ontario.”

This tells us a lot more about the way decisions are made about electricity generation in this province than it does about opportunities. A lot of math is provides which seems to show windmills aren’t affordable, but it’s only one option, and probably not the one most homeowners would choose. Windmills aren’t particularly complex machines, and there’s a lot of open-source alternatives out there for you or a contractor that would beat the econics here hands down.

But that’s really the problem – windmills vs. windfarms. And windfarms easily fall into the same kind of traps that traditional centralized power generation falls into. Yes, if I lived near a windfarm I’d have a few complaints, though many less than with a coal or nuclear power plant. But we’ve known for decades that renewable energy combined with big-industry thinking could be ecologically destructive on a massive scale – just look at hydro dams. Dams flood countless miles of forest (or in some areas, settlements and farms), choke off streams, impede sediment flows (and fill up as a result), prevent the breeding of many ecologically and economically critical species (like salmon), displace communities, and are frequently the projects used by international financial powerhouses like the World Bank and IMF to drive nations like India into crippling debt. Not green by any measure I’d use. But power generation doesn’t all have to take place in one location. In fact, in America at least, one study showed over 7% of power lost along transmission. That means that anything being generated at or near where it’s being used, is going to be a fair amount more efficient just by being there. And of course cutting consumption at point of use also has this effect.

He also complains about subsidies to the wind industry, as if conventional power sources like petrochemicals or nuclear aren’t getting far more cash (ultimately, of course, also from taxes and utility bills).

he load is down 17 per cent in Southern Ontario and over 50 per cent in northern Ontario with the forestry and mining industries having been hit hard.

However, the economy is showing some signs of recovery. Both federal and provincial governments are making investments to encourage new industry and more job creation.

We will still have an automotive and a steel industry, but on a smaller scale.

The power requirement for industry together with the needs of our growing populations will require a higher power level.

This is typical government bureaucrat thinking. Always project growth. And as long as everybody does it, everyone can always refer to each other’s projections to show that they, too, will grow. Nevermind that he just mentioned massive drops in use. Nor that we’re committing as a country to cut emissions substantially, and will have to go much farther if we’re going to adequately tackle climate change. Nevermind that energy efficiency is one of the first questions asked about family purchases, whether they be the home itself (or its building materials), cars, appliances, or electronics. Our LCD monitors use about a twentieth of the power old CRT monitors did a decade ago. And a decade from now, OLCD screens may use a twentieth of what our LCDs use (at least, that’s what the first models are boasting…). And then there’s lowering birthrates, declining industries and many homeowners choosing to forgo grid electricity altogether. Planning for growth in the power industry means building plants, which drives down the cost of energy and creates demand in its own right.

Power grids were designed to make money, and that’s what they do. Read about Edison and his contemporaries, and the history of electricity – they made every decision based on how much money they could make. And as a result working families are forced to pay out hundreds of dollars every month or so.

We can do better.

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