Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much would TC Energy’s Pumped Storage cost?

    The price tag on this risky megaproject has already skyrocketed from $2.2 billion in 2019 to $4.5 billion last year, and TC Energy has now agreed to cap it at $7 billion. If the Ontario government hands the company the long-term electricity contract it is seeking, all provincial electricity ratepayers will be on the hook for underwriting the costs of this possible white elephant for years to come.

    In addition, Energy Minister Todd Smith has agreed Ontario taxpayers will pick up TCE’s pre-construction expenses, despite the fact that the project was neither solicited nor subject to a public competition. In his instructions to the IESO, the minister suggested TC Energy could apply for assistance in recouping those outlays from the federal government, meaning all Canadian taxpayers could end up footing that part of the bill.

  • What is Pumped Storage?

    Pumped hydro works by pumping water into a reservoir during low-demand, low-cost hours to be held until needed. When demand increases, the water is released, flows through a turbine and produces electricity. The energy storage capacity of a pumped hydro facility depends on the size of its two reservoirs, while the amount of power generated is linked to the size of the turbine. There are two types of pumped storage – Open Loop and Closed Loop.

    Open-Loop Pumped Storage Hydropower are projects that are continuously connected to a natural body of water. TC Energy’s proposed project in Meafoed is an example of an open-loop pumped storage hydropower project.

    Closed-Loop Pumped Storage Hydropower are projects that are are not continuously connected to a natural body of water. The proposed Marmora Hydroelectric Pumped Storage Project is an example of a closed-loop cycle design that would recirculate the same water between Marmora’s former open-pit mine and upper reservoir.

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  • Why is Save Georgian Bay opposed to the TC Energy’s Pumped Storage proposal?

    Save Georgian Bay is opposed to TC Energy’s pumped storage proposal because:

    1. It threatens irreversible damage to the environment and fragile ecosystems of both the Niagara Escarpment and the waters of Georgian Bay.

    2. It makes no financial sense: Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), which manages the provincial grid, has twice concluded that the project would provide provide no net economic benefit for electricity consumers.

  • How does TC Energy’s Pumped Storage threaten the environment?

    Damage to the Niagara Escarpment: Among the project’s most concerning environmental threats is TC Energy’s plans to excavate a 375-acre reservoir on the Niagara Escarpment – a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. Curiously, TC Energy likes to claim its project is not, in fact, on the Niagara Escarpment, although its illustrations clearly show the massive tunnels it plans to bore from the reservoir deep through the escarpment’s limestone to underground shoreline turbines and hence to its intake/release pipes beneath the lake bed of Georgian Bay. But that disclaimer is a bureaucratic nicety. Since the project is on federal Defence Department land, it is not subject to the official constraints and regulations of the Niagara Escarpment Commission, but that does not change the fact that its reservoir will be carved out of a unique and fragile geological formation—one the UN saw fit to protect.

    Threats to Georgian Bay: TC Energy has proposed its open-loop Pumped Storage Project on Defence Department lands straddling the Niagara Escarpment precisely because the site offers unfettered access to the public waters of Georgian Bay. Its hydro-electric plant would pump 23 billion litres of that bay water up the 150-metre elevation at night when electricity demands and prices are low—storing it in a mammoth reservoir nearly twice the size of Lake Louise—then release it back into the bay to generate electricity when demand, and daytime rates, are high. That process, repeated every day for the projected 100-year life span of the project, threatens to suck countless small fish into the plant’s giant underground turbines, not only killing them but causing unnatural currents that will disrupt the bay’s entire aquatic ecosystem.

    The installation of its high-voltage underwater transmission lines from Meaford to Wasaga Beach, 50 kilometres away, will disturb lakebed sediment and further impact marine habitat. The project has the potential to pollute one of the province’s most prized resources: the irreplaceable fresh waters of Georgian Bay,
    vital to the area’s recreation, tourism and fishing industries.

    TC Energy says it will employ mitigation measures to minimize fish kill, but one of its models for the Meaford project is the continent’s second largest pumped storage project in Ludington, Michigan, opened in 1973. There, it took a 12-year lawsuit by the National Wildlife Federation and other environmental groups—including state and federal agencies—to stop the plant from killing 150 million fish a year. Even today, the mandated two-kilometre net erected over its intake pipes cannot keep fish under five inches from being sucked into its six giant turbines. Ludington’s costs and environmental issues are cited as one reason no new pumped storage project has been built on this continent since 2010.

    Unexploded Munitions and Toxic Contamination: TC Energy’s Pumped Storage Project will be located on the 4th Canadian Forces Division Training Centre in Meaford, an active military base created during the Second World War from expropriated farms. Known locally as the Meaford Tank Range, the 19,000-acre base is littered with so many unexploded munitions, heavy metal compounds and other toxins from 80 years of weapons use that large areas have been declared off-limits even to the military training there today.

    On a Defence Department map of the range supplied to Meaford council in 2021, one of three contaminated areas is labelled “White Phosphorus”—a highly toxic substance used in smoke grenades, tracer shells and mortars that ignites on contact with oxygen and can cause severe burns and total organ failure. Among the other chemicals of concern according to a Treasury Board Review of Federal Contaminated Sites: methyl mercury, nitrogen oxides, Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) and organo-metallic compounds containing lead and arsenic–all threats to human health, aquatic life, soil and water.

    Two decades ago, a former base worker swore an affidavit that he had been ordered to help bury four barrels of the dioxin-based defoliant Agent Orange on the site, sparking a lengthy investigation that failed to confirm his claim. But documents obtained under the Access to Information Act reveal Defence Department concerns that, once TC Energy’s construction disturbs the soil of the base, other known toxins from munitions and heavy metal compounds could leach into streams and aquifers, draining into—and polluting—Georgian Bay.

    Threats to Species at Risk: The Department of National Defence (DND) warns that the project could devastate approximately 10% of the wildlife at the training centre. This includes up to 30 Species at Risk residing in the proposed project site on the Niagara Escarpment whose habitat could be destroyed or compromised, both from construction activity and the displacement of 375 acres of Niagara Escarpment to create the reservoir.

  • Is TC Energy’s project a “green” energy project?

    The project has been pitched by TC Energy as “a reliable, powerful climate solution” and a major contribution to greening Ontario’s grid. Who wouldn’t be in favour of those goals? Certainly, we at Save Georgian Bay are keenly committed to seeing the climate emergency addressed effectively and urgently. But we also see TC Energy’s environmental claims for this project as hollow hype —an exercise in corporate greenwashing by a fossil fuel giant so desperate to rebrand itself that it is currently in the process of splitting the company in two. The pumped storage project will, in fact, consume 30 percent more electricity to operate than it can store and produce. And during its approximate four-year construction phase, it could create an estimated 450,000 tonne increase in CO2 levels, as well as releasing other airborne contaminants into the atmosphere.

  • Does Ontario need energy storage?

    After years of stable supply, Ontario’s electricity system is in the early stages of a dramatic transformation to support decarbonization and economic growth. As the number of electric cars, trucks and buses continues to rise, homeowners and businesses consider a switch to electric heating and manufacturers begin the transition from fossil fuel processes to electric alternatives, Ontario’s demand for electricity will increase. This will put additional stress on the provincial electricity system. Electricity demand in Ontario is set to increase significantly in the next two decades as the economy grows and many fossil fuel-dependent processes switch to electricity. The IESO forecasts electricity demand to increase two per cent annually over the next 20 years.

    Save Georgian Bay fully appreciates the need for increased renewable electricity supply and storage in Ontario to meet growing needs. We support efforts to take urgent action against climate change, including decarbonizing the grid, and recognize the role that electricity storage plays in that process. But we do not believe this project provides a rational or viable solution. There are numerous newer and more efficient technologies that are far less environmentally damaging and expensive that can be built in much shorter time. We urge governments at every level to examine and adopt more efficient and cost-effective storage solutions that do not exact such negative tolls on the environment and priceless natural landscape. It is essential to balance the need for sustainable energy solutions with the preservation and stewardship of our natural environment for generations to come.


    Source: IESO Annual Planning Outlook, Ontario’s electricity system needs: 2024-2043. December 2022
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  • Are there alternative energy options?

    There are many types of energy storage that charge and discharge energy in different ways, including batteries, compressed air and flywheels among others. Regardless of the type, all storage technologies operate on the same general principle – charging up when electricity demand and costs are low and discharging when it’s needed most.

    Current alternatives include:
    – Batteries: The most popular type of battery is lithium-ion. Batteries conserve energy until it is needed, which makes them a reliable and flexible source of electricity supply.
    – Thermal: Thermal energy storage draws electricity from the grid when demand is low and uses it to heat water, which is stored in large tanks. When needed, the water can be released to supply heat or hot water.
    – Flywheels: Flywheels are large, heavy wheels that draw energy from the grid to spin at high speeds. When needed, this kinetic energy can be harnessed to drive a generator to produce electricity.
    – Compressed Air: Compressed air uses off-peak energy to pump air into a containment area, such as an underground cavern, that can be released on demand to drive a turbine to generate electricity.
    – Hydrogen: Hydrogen is a clean fuel that can be produced during periods of low cost and demand, and stored in tanks for use during periods of high cost and demand. It is burned to generate electricity or used to power fuel cells in electric vehicles.

    In the rapidly evolving landscape of low-carbon technologies, viable alternatives are emerging quickly. By 2030, when the pumped storage project could potentially come online, these alternatives could address the province’s energy storage needs with minimal environmental impact. We must balance impacts and benefits. It is clear that TC Energy’s pumped storage proposal lacks economic future proofing and poses a real environmental downside.


  • Who is Small Change Fund?

    To support our fundraising efforts, Save Georgian Bay have collaborated with Small Change Fund, a charitable organization that specializes in environmental and social issues, have helped hundreds of other projects across the country achieve their goals.

    Our collaboration with Small Change Fund will help Save Georgian Bay to expand our reach and amplify our impact and to offer our community the following benefits:

    1) Instant charitable donation tax receipt.
    2) Arms-length management of funds.
    3) Detailed accounting of receipts and expenses.
    4) Integrity of accountability protected by charitable requirements.
    5) Provides a network with other environmental groups.

    You can find our project on the Small Change Fund website here

  • What is TC Energy’s Pumped Storage proposal?

    TC Energy’s proposed project is an open-loop pumped hydro project. It will work by sucking up 23 billion litres of Georgian Bay water every night into a 375-acre reservoir to be excavated and built on the escarpment 150 metres above the bay, then flushing it back during the day to generate electricity. In less than 30 years it would have moved as much water as there is in Lake Erie. The plant would be connected to the grid via 50 kilometres of high voltage underwater cables stretching to Wasaga Beach.

    One of TCE’s models for the project is the continent’s second largest pumped storage project in Ludington, Michigan, which opened in 1973. There, it took a 12-year lawsuit by the National Wildlife Federation and other environmental groups—including state and federal agencies—to stop the plant from killing 150 million fish a year. Even today, the mandated two-kilometre net erected over its intake pipes in Lake Michigan cannot keep fish under five inches from being sucked into the plant’s giant turbines. Ludington’s problems are one reason no new pumped storage project has been built on this continent since 2010.