Radically different governments, same principle: spend pots of public money on solar power in hopes of … well, having a lot of economically unsustainable solar power.
In Ontario, the Globe and Mail reports, The Ontario Power Authority is pleased to have signed contracts for 250 megawatts of solar-power systems:
If all those who have promised to install panels follow through with their plans, Ontario will have some of the biggest solar farms on the planet, and an important “green” industry will be kick-started in the province.
Still, the solar-power generation business is essentially starting from scratch. At year-end only an infinitesimal 0.3 MW of sun-generated energy was being sold to Ontario’s power grid. The biggest completed project so far is a series of panels on the roof of the horse barn at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto.
The industry will be “kick-started,” but the contracts call for the providers to be paid 42 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is about seven times the going rate for electricity in hydro- and nuclear-rich Ontario most of the time. Even in high summer, the spot price for power rarely tops 30 cents a kilowatt-hour. Later in the story, a spokesman for one of the companies involved says 42 cents a kW/h is barely a break-even price for his operation.
So I guess the hope is that this subsidy, for a subsidy it is, will help Ontario-based companies work out some of the kinks in solar-energy generation and move in the direction of the going market prices.
But still — seven times the market price? Wouldn’t the money be better spent on nuclear technology, if energy’s what the government’s determined to spend it on?
Abu Dhabi, meanwhile, is happily announcing the imminent construction of a Dongtan-style concept town called Masdar City, which is supposed to be a carbon-neutral residence for 50,000.
Abu Dhabi sits on most of the UAE’s oil and gas reserves, ranked respectively as fifth and fourth in the world. Proven oil reserves on their own are expected to last for another 150 years.
But like most oil-producing countries, the UAE also wants to diversify to ease its traditional economic dependency on oil.
The zero-carbon city, part of the wider Masdar Initiative launched by the wealthy Abu Dhabi government in 2006, is also a flagship project of the global conservation group WWF.
Masdar chief executive Sultan al-Jaber described Masdar — Arabic for “source” — as as an entirely new economic sector fully dedicated to alternative energy, which will have a positive impact on the emirate’s economy.
It’ll have transportation pods like Star Trek turbolifts, according to Agence France-Presse, where you’ll be able to walk in and say your destination and it’ll take you there.
Cool. Practical? No. It can function only with massive ongoing subsidies from Abu Dhabi’s oil-drenched economy. That’s the opposite of sustainable.