Windsor City Council Backs Natural Gas Power Plant Expansion Despite Opposition from Residents and Environmental Groups.

By A. Ellis (MSA Shadow Councillor in Windsor-Essex). Published on the Municipal Socialist Alliance website on Jan. 24, 2023.

On January 16, 2023, Windsor City Council supported a proposal from Capital Power to add two natural gas turbines to their existing facility, East Windsor Cogeneration Centre, located on Riverside Drive. This expansion will increase the power plant’s capacity from 92 megawatts (MW) to 192 MW. Capital Power advised City Council that its proposal responds directly to a call to action from the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO). In October 2022, the Provincial Government mandated that the EISO “acquire 4,000 MW of new electricity generation” by 2027, including up to to 1500 MW of natural gas-fueled electricity generation. This joint-effort led by the Ford Government, Windsor City Council, and big business imperils our future by recklesslessly expanding fossil fuel combustion. We need to fight back.

Capital Power Vice President Kelly Lail provided a brief presentation to Windsor City Council. He stressed the need for increased energy capacity in Windsor in order to secure future Investments, then contradicted himself by adding that the natural gas turbines were more like an “insurance policy” for Windsor’s electricity system, advising it would only operate when needed. This ultimately swayed 8 out of 10 city councillors to support the proposal despite residents and delegates from the Ontario Clean Air Alliance, Environmental Defence, Windsor Essex Youth Climate Council, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment urging City Council to instead invest in non-polluting energy solutions like wind, solar, and battery Storage. In November 2019, the City of Windsor declared a climate emergency, and one year later, called on the province to phase out natural gas power plants. By supporting this natural gas plant extension, councilors ignored this commitment and betrayed the people of Windsor.

Windsor City council clearly took the ‘need’ to expand natural gas combustion for granted. They ignored that prior to January 6, 2023, Capital Power also planned on expanding battery storage at the plant, which would increase capacity by an additional 40 MW. When Capital Power discovered the city’s electrical grid could accomodate the extra 100 MW of energy generation without needing battery expansion, they quickly shelved those plans. Yet City Councillors did not even inquire if expansion of battery storage systems, and the extra 40 MW in capacity, would instead be a sufficient “insurance policy” to keep the lights on. Again City Council sides with big business and their need for profit rather than represent the needs of residents for clean air and a liveable climate.

But Windsor City Council and Capital Power are not the only players pushing natural gas.

In order for the IESO to expand electrity generation by 1500 MW via new natural gas power plants, the Provincial Government agreed to sign energy contracts that expire no sooner than 2040. This despite the fact that the Federal Government plans on passing Clean Electricity Regulations (CER), which would shut down these natural gas plants by 2035, leaving residents of Ontario paying these energy contracts even after these natural gas plants are no longer in use. Even before this recent push to expand natural gas-fueled power generation, the IESO predicted that emissions from Ontario’s power grid would increase 375% by 2030 and 600% by 2040, relative to 2017 levels. This means that Ontario is the only province in Canada actually planning to increase emissions due to electricity generation, leading us in the wrong direction and destroying any progress we’ve made with clean energy in the province.

It’s clear that the wealthy capitalists who own these natural gas plants do not care about anything other than maximizing profit accumulation and their bottom line. It will be up to workers and oppressed peoples to organize together, seize control of electricity generation, and ensure that decisions impacting our communities, like where our energy comes from, are made by the community and not those people only looking to make a buck off of our misery.