Ontario is planning to ban the sale of incandescent lightbulbs by 2012, the provincial energy and environment ministers announced today, part of a plan to shave six million megawatt-hours off Ontario’s energy consumption and close the last of its coal-fired generating plants.
From the National Post‘s account:
Ontario has a short-term goal of achieving a 5% or 1,350 megawatt reduction in peak demand this year compared with 2005. The long-term goal is to reduce projected electricity demand by 6,300 megawatts by 2025, a goal that translates into a 14% per capita reduction in provincial electricity consumption.
The goal is considered extremely aggressive by all involved. California has only managed to keep per capita electricity consumption flat since the mid-1970s despite the introduction of tough building code changes, new appliance standards and other conservation measures that came into effect after the OPEC oil embargo.
If Ontario’s conservation goals aren’t attained, governments down the road will have to consider a host of politically unpalatable options that include keeping the province’s coal fired plants open for longer — they are currently slated for closure by 2014 — or building more than the one or two new nuclear plants already envisioned.
While this is a solid-fuel-rocket boost for manufacturers of compact fluorescents and LED lights, and essentially good news for the environment, it’s really a consequence of the profoundly screwed-up way the electricity system works in Ontario (and so many other places). Not only is the transmission grid publicly owned, which is defensible, but the backbone of the province’s generation system is a small number of extremely large generators (nuclear, coal, or old-school hydroelectric) that are also either publicly owned or so tightly affixed to the provincial treasury that they might as well be.
Trouble is, the price is regulated by the government, smoothed out with adjustments each season, kept from spiking with the cost of electricity on the spot market in summer, and not really linked to the cost of the multibillion-dollar installations from which it emerges. There’s little direct incentive to make personal choices in favour of efficiency, because the government virtually guarantees that inefficiency won’t cost you that much.
Rather than deal with that much more fundamental problem, Ontarians get a ban on one particularly inefficient technology, five years from now.
In compact fluorescents’ defence, they’ve improved a lot over the past few years. We’ve put on in the overhead kitchen light a few years ago and it’s kind of unpleasantly blue and dim, but I picked up a couple more about a month ago, for the overheads in the living room, bedroom and front hall, and if anything they’re too yellow and bright. Very serviceable substitutes for incandescents, as more than my little anecdotal case has found. I just wish everyone could make a reasoned choice to use them, instead of being forced.