Past ministerial promises haven’t worked out so well. Why should we have faith in a minister who admits mistakes but then says he is planning major change?
Glenn Thibeault, Minister of Energy, spoke at a breakfast session for the Economic Club of Canada in Ottawa and admitted that “Ontario” (not the Liberal Party or his predecessors in the energy portfolio) screwed up by paying too much for renewable energy.
While that was a significant admission by Mr. Thibeault, recall that only three weeks earlier he claimed “We have the system of the future paid with yesterday’s dollars.”
His Ottawa remarks claimed Ontario’s leadership position in green energy was “absolutely the right policy,” yet the attractive fixed-term contracts handed out “created a bonanza” for wind and solar providers but “left ratepayers with a hangover.” Minister Thibeault’s many claims made in that speech about eliminating “heavily polluting coal-fired power plants,” how “we drove significant investment in the province,” how “demand for electricity plummeted in the steep recession” of 2008, and how “Ontario had taken a leadership position in green energy,” have all been disputed by many. As just one example, the Green Energy Act (GEA), the feed-in tariff program and time-of-use pricing mechanisms were all policies copied from Germany and Denmark, and not a leading position.
Billions spent without proper planning: AG
The apparent surprise, “Ontario was paying too much for renewable energy,” was already noted by Auditor General Jim McCarter in his December 5, 2011 report: “Billions of dollars of new wind and solar power projects were approved without many of the usual planning, regulatory, and oversight processes.”
The AG report came over a year after then Energy Minister Brad Duguid released his Long-Term Energy Plan, calling for 10,700 MW of renewable energy from wind and solar. Minister Duguid also directed spending on the Niagara Tunnel ($1.5 billion) and the Lower Mattagami River ($2.6 billion) hydro projects which presumably are some of those “yesterday’s dollars” Thibeault mentions. Just before his LTEP was released, Minister Duguid pulled the plug on the Oakville gas plant and said, “As we’re putting together an update to our Long-Term Energy Plan, it has become clear we no longer need this plant in Oakville.” More “yesterday’s dollars”!
As the electricity rates started spiraling upwards, Minister Duguid gave us the OCEB (Ontario Clean Energy Benefit) in February 2011, which took 10% off electricity bills for the following five years, and also added over $5 billion to the province’s debt.
Now many critics (me included) of the GEA said renewable energy would drive up electricity prices soon after the GEA was passed. One of the first articles I pointed this out in appeared seven years ago (February 24, 2010) in the Financial Post where I commented, “As expensive electricity coming from wind and solar power slowly works its way through the system, many more rate increases will follow.” (Several months later Minister Duguid labeled me as a “self-appointed guru” on the Goldhawk Live TV show. Perhaps he considered my forecasts to be “fake news”.)
Back to Minister Thibeault’s speech: the remark we should all be concerned about is, “In the coming weeks you’re going to hear about out plan, how it will impact businesses and families, and most importantly, how it will provide structural changes that ensure both immediate and lasting relief.”
We ratepayers have seen claims like that before. On February 17, 2011, Minister Duguid promised: “Creating more than 50,000 jobs in the clean energy economy” and “Helping reduce costs for consumers and making the power system more efficient through conservation”.
Those jobs were never created and we reportedly reduced our consumption by the 7,100 MW Duguid had as a target, but our electricity bills increased. In February 2011, the average electricity rate was 6.84 cents/kWh; and in Feb. 2017 it is 11.1 cents/kWh — an increase of 62.2% in just six years. Off-peak rates are up over 70%.
The “structural changes” promised by Minister Thibeault may well turn out like past promises and fail to deliver anything close to what is promised.
Minister Thibeault and the Wynne government should instead cancel unfulfilled wind and solar contracts, LRP II (currently suspended), move the Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP) to the Ministry of Community and Social Services, and stop the annual spending of $400 million on conservation programs.
Leave the planning to the experts!