Saturday, March 2, 2024

Reader’s Analysis of Ontario Pumped Storage Project

Dear Editor,

I have to give kudos to TC Energy for their very effective, multi-million dollar proposed Ontario Pumped Storage (OPS) project public relations campaign. It looks like they have managed to influence politicians, much of the public and our own local town council through claims, a massive advertising campaign, lobbying and enticements. A corporate strategy of ‘spend millions to make billions’ really seems to work.

I haven’t attended any “coffee chats” but have attended several TC Energy public meetings. When faced with valid, pertinent questions about the proposed OPS project, the questions were either ignored or the answers were evasive and incomplete. Most of their claims still seemingly lack legitimate supporting research and facts.

I won’t use a ‘cartoon’ to illustrate my point about corporate claims but will summarize a true story example for the readers:

Once, a company called Purdue Pharma (owned by the Sackler family) developed a drug called OxyContin. The company made claims that OxyContin was a safe and efficient drug with a 12-hour relief from chronic pain, and a risk of addiction of less than 1%. These claims were backed up by unreliable research data.

Purdue’s sales representatives aggressively conveyed these claims to doctors and other medical professionals. A related feature of this strategy was that, because of the purported low addiction risk (<1%), it could be prescribed as an effective treatment for chronic pain from virtually any condition. The company pressed doctors to prescribe OxyContin. More than 5,000 physicians, pharmacists, and nurses attended all-expenses-paid ‘vacation’ seminars, where they were recruited and trained for Purdue’s national speaker bureau.

Then, Purdue enticed the FDA medical review officer to approve OxyContin. He resigned from the FDA a year later and was subsequently employed as a consultant at Purdue with a substantially higher salary.

In spite of the 12-hour claim, most patients found the drug wore off after eight hours or less. Doctors were advised by Purdue to keep patients on the 12-hour cycle by prescribing a stronger dose, thereby increasing their addiction.

Most of the public, medical community and politicians blindly believed Purdue’s corporate claims, and hundreds of thousands of people died from OxyContin addiction. The Sackler family made billions of dollars and avoided criminal prosecution.

Purdue isn’t the only corporation in history to use misleading tactics. This is why I continue to ignore corporate claims, ads and ‘coffee chats’. I perform my own diligent research using multiple, independent and reliable sources (as the public should too).

Here is a summary of the proposed Ontario Pumped Storage (OPS) project main issues and possible outcomes:

Cost

Hydro-electric mega-projects have a history of huge cost overruns. An experienced engineering source has estimated that the OPS could cost $8B to $10B+, based upon early 2030’s completion. TCE’s latest claimed cost projection is now a maximum of $7B.

Long-term Construction Time

A recent TCE news release has projected an early 2030’s OPS in-service commencement date. That could be 10+ years from now. Once approved, a battery storage plant can be constructed in 1-2 years.

Inefficiency

TCE claims a round-trip efficiency of 72% (Navigant report) but with 2-way transmission line losses the total system efficiency could realistically be about 66%. Tesla Megapak fully integrated battery units have a round-trip efficiency of 93.7% and don’t require long transmission lines. This efficiency difference equals a 27.7% energy loss.

Environmental Issues

The OPS could cause significant environmental damage to the escarpment and Georgian Bay. It could also threaten several at-risk land and aquatic species, and municipal water supplies.

Reservoir construction and tunnelling on the Meaford training base can create significant traffic, noise, CO2, and pollutants. Unexploded ordnance (UXOs) is another problem. Even with modern screen upgrades, the Ludington, Michigan PSP operation still has massive fish kills caused by its turbines and the OPS probably won’t be much different.

Impact Zone

Approximately 300 farms, permanent homes and cottages will be located directly below the OPS 375-acre reservoir. If the above-ground reservoir dam breaches (historically, many have), the property damage and loss of life would be catastrophic.

Lobbying, Non-competition and Politics

Several lobbyists have been identified as having previous close ties with the Ford government and are now involved with TC Energy.

The TCE OPS proposal is a sole-source proposal and has not been submitted to the normal IESO LT RFP competitive approval process. In a January 9th letter to the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), the Ontario Minister of Energy Todd Smith asked the agency to re-assess the proposal for the third time. The IESO has reiterated that the project lacks economic value for Ontario’s electricity ratepayers.

In an unusual move, the Minister also set in motion a process for his government to reimburse TC Energy’s pre-construction costs.

Meaford Council voted to declare Meaford a “willing host” for the proposed OPS without any public referendum or formal consultation.

Inexperience

TC Energy is a fossil fuel pipeline company with a dubious record and no experience building hydro-electric megaprojects like the OPS.

Obsolescence

New energy storage technologies (batteries, EVs, hydrogen production, etc.) and electricity market changes could make the OPS obsolete by completion date or within a few years of its operation.

Business, Job and Financial Opportunity Claims

Business and job opportunities for Meaford may not be as TCE claims. Most of the claimed 1,000 construction workers (previously 800 claimed) will be select groups of transient, skilled union workers, working on different time frames. This touted economic “bonanza“ for Meaford will only last a few years and then will be virtually nothing.

Most likely, these workers will drive mainly to Owen Sound for improved shopping and entertainment opportunities, as the driving time from the Meaford military base to Owen Sound isn’t much different than to downtown Meaford.

As a result of benefits the town receives from TCE, the Department of National Defence (DND) may claw back or even discontinue payments to the town.

Regards,

Mike McTaggart, Meaford

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