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Sustainable development and Ontario Hydro.

Although the exact meaning of the term "sustainable development" may never be defined, it is an important concept to strive for and one that has already altered our lifestyles and the way we do business. Sustainable development often encourages negative thinking. To a business person it implies a restriction on development while for the environmentalists it fails to sufficiently curb development.


Colin Issacs, a public policy consultant, said "One of my big frustrations is that both media and politicians continue to promote the concept that protecting the environment is going to be very expensive. Without any doubt at all, remedying problems of the past is going to be expensive, but we have so far failed to make the change in the economic paradigm that is fundamental to sustainable development. Sustainable development does not require spending more money; put in excessively simple terms, it requires spending the money that we were going to spend anyway in ways that are less damaging to the environment, and because of its emphasis on the essential nature of a healthy economy, the concept of sustainable development is inherently opposed to inflation and in support of full employment." He concluded that sustainable development is not an economic threat but an economic opportunity.

Electricity and Innovation

The last 100 years have seen a burst of invention and innovation unparalleled in human history. Great minds conquered diseases eased our daily labor with incredible machines and electronic devices, built better housing and turned voyages of months into hours. Electricity played a key role supplying the power behind technological breakthroughs in health care, the work place and many other aspects of society. The CANDU reactor is one example. We need to imbue the concept of sustainable development with the same kind of human genius and willingness to accept a challenge that went into creating these economic benefits.

Hydro's 25-Year Plan

Ontario Hydro's 25-year plan to meet the electrical needs of Ontario attempts to balance environmental and social concerns with the need for an ample dependable and reasonably priced supply of electricity.

Some of the initiatives underway are described below.

Hydro has embarked upon a $3-billion demand management program to encourage a wiser use of electricity. It also proposes to buy more power from private generators and encourage large industries, like pulp and paper, to build electrical generators into their operations. Old plants will be retrofitted to extend their life, increase their output and make them more environmentally friendly. Despite these efforts, between 20 and 30 per cent of Hydro's major supply stations will be out of service by 2014. $4.9-million will be invested to develop remaining hydraulic resources and to increase the capacity of existing sites for a gain of about 3,000 MW.

Last year, Hydro converted over 1 million liters of PCB-contaminated oil into salt and recyclable mineral oil at a mobile PCB decontamination unit. High-risk PCB equipment is also being removed from service and the contaminate processed through the unit.

Another $2.5 billion will be spent by the year 2000 to retrofit fossil fuel stations with scrubbers to achieve a 60 per cent acid gas reduction from 1982 readings.

The use of herbicide along transmission and rights of way and gravelled areas at stations will be reduced by 35% through the development and implementation of new branch-cutting equipment and research into vegetation maintenance.

Last year, Hydro marketed 23.5 per cent of the coal ash produced at its fossil stations for construction and waste stabilization purposes; yielding a $6.1-million benefit to the corporation.

Plans to fund a $5.2-million, 3,500 hectare reforestation program in Northern Ontario as part of a new policy to replace all trees cleared in future construction at its facilities, including head ponds for hydro-electric stations were recently announced.

Recycling programs are also in place for varsol, resulting in $75,000 to $125,000 in annual savings, and drums, saving another $7000. Other programs collect silver, mercury, copper, transformer oil and scrap metal worth more than $4-million.

These activities are the result of a commitment by senior management to environmental protection and sustaining the environment.

Advisory Panel

In 1989, Hydro also established an Environmental Advisory Panel composed of two senior vice-presidents and nine external advisors to counsel the senior management committee and other elements of the organization on environmental matters.


The challenges we face will only be met if we translate the things we learn into creative and cooperative partnerships lasting over the long-term; partnerships between corporations and consumers on the home front, partnerships between developed and developing countries abroad. We are in an age of immense change where no single individual, no single group or industry working alone can resolve the problems we face. Sustainable development must become a closed loop. Leadership can only point the way - creative partnerships make things happen.

The recent agreement by China and India to phase out ozone-eating CFCs because the developed countries agreed to provide a technology transfer fund to lessen the economic blow is one example of global partnership. More are needed. For this to happen some of the negative connotations sustainable development sometimes evokes must be set aside.

Each step we take forward demonstrates to the doubters that a sustainable future is an attainable goal and turns doubters into innovators. It releases the kind of creative energy that has been a hallmark of Hydro since its inception. It is up to all of us to give tomorrow a helping hand!

Adapted from a presentation by Carole D. Bumham, at the Seminar on Sustainable Development, cosponsored by the Engineering Institute of Canada and the CSChE Toronto Section, October 17, 1991.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Chemical Institute of Canada
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Viewpoint
Author:Burnham, Carole D.
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Article Type:Column
Date:Feb 1, 1992
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