Editorial – December 2013
The price of power
By Patrick Flannery
High power prices are a mixed blessing for the glass industry. This
issue contains some ideas to help you find opportunity amid the
High power prices are a mixed blessing for the glass industry. This issue contains some ideas to help you find opportunity amid the struggle.
The Heinz ketchup factory in Leamington, Ont., has announced it will shut down and move production elsewhere, putting over 700 people out of work. Many of these workers have few transferrable skills and have never worked anywhere else. The blow to the tiny community of around 30,000 people will be devastating. Commenting on this tragedy, Sun News columnist Christie Blatchford made an important point: this is the price of high electricity rates.
Whether high taxes or high electricity rates were the ultimate cause of Heinz’s decision to close its century-old operation is a matter for debate, but it seems obvious that the high power rates couldn’t have helped the company’s situation. There wasn’t much talk about outcomes like this back when Ontarians were being sold windmills and solar power in the early years of this century. The government admitted (sort of) that prices would go up in the short term, but that this trend would swiftly reverse as the technology matured through implementation. Before long, we would all be dining out on nearly free power and saving the planet from global warming at the same time. Instead, rates have skyrocketed, rural residents are in an uproar over the destruction of their landscapes with towering wind farms and the government has turned to better-established methods of power generation, like natural gas and nuclear, while cancelling contracts for further green energy development. I hear similar stories from elsewhere in the country.
One thing is for sure: rates will not be going down anytime soon. And although it may not come as much consolation to the citizens of Leamington, the new environment of pricey power actually represents significant opportunities for the glass industry. The need to save energy on heating homes and commercial buildings is driving a powerful demand for upgraded windows, doors and building envelopes. We stand in a position to actually help the Canadian economy offset the worst effects of rising power prices with better-insulated and low-E products. New windows probably wouldn’t have saved Heinz, but they might have helped a bit.
The good news for glaziers is there is an ever-expanding list of products available to help them meet this demand. We take a look at several in our flat glass showcase on page 18. And our Innovations feature this issue introduces nano coating as a potential energy-saving retrofit to existing windows. So even as you groan over your shop’s electricity bill, take a moment to reflect on the fact that it may be driving a substantial portion of the business that keeps the shop running in the first place.