Ontario Ratepayers Blinked, and Nothing Happened

In a little over four months from today Ontarians will find ourselves having to decide who to vote for in the forthcoming election?  After four years of the Doug Ford led government, we will, no doubt, look back and wonder, do they deserve another term?

Personally, I have been scratching my head and searching for their accomplishments, particularly as it relates to the “electricity” sector where my critical analysis started about a dozen years ago with the assistance of individuals with much better electricity generation insight.  Back when the OPC party sat in opposition their “official critics” of the ministry would often call me seeking input. The current Minister of Energy, MPP Todd Smith occupied that position for about three years and would seek my views. His predecessor, Vic Fedeli, would do the same prior to becoming finance critic.   

When the Doug Ford led OPC party won the last election with a significant majority the Wynne led Ontario Liberal Party became the “minivan” party.   Many of us who supported Ford et al, looked forward to seeing real action from the Ford appointed Energy Minister.  We expected they would change things reversing the electricity price climb that had increased ratepayer costs by well over 100%.

Ford appointed Greg Rickford as Minister of Energy, Mines, Northern Development and Indigenous Affairs and while Rickford may be a competent individual it wasn’t clear he was familiar with the complexities of the energy portfolio! Rickford moved quickly to kill the GEA (Green Energy and Green Economy Act) immediately announcing cancellation of 758 contracts that had not started.  The cancellation would reputedly save ratepayers $790 million but failed to mention it was over the full term of the 20-year contracts. The future savings were less than $40 million annually or about 0.2% of the annual cost of electricity to ratepayers.

Water tax allocation etc,                                                                                             

Rickford could have simply reduced the “water fuel expense” ie: tax, from the $11.2 million per TWh (terawatt hour) paid by OPG to $10 million/TWh and actually saved ratepayers $40 million per annum, but he didn’t! Ratepayers even pay the water tax when OPG is forced to “spill” water because the wind is blowing and/or the sun is shining and the “first to the grid” rights are given to industrial wind turbines (IWT) and solar panels. He could have allocated that cost to the IWT contracts at the very least. Rickford may also have been involved in the retirement of the Hydro One Board along with the CEO Mayo Schmidt, although Premier Ford was seen to take credit for that! That event didn’t save us money.

In my humble opinion the foregoing basically represents the bulk of what Rickford accomplished while Minister of Energy unless one accord’s him the credit for increasing the cost transfer to taxpayers from the 31.2% of my May 29,2018 hydro bill when Wynne was the Premier to 38.5% on my most recent bill.  The foregoing of course only served to increase the future cost to taxpayers who are also ratepayers. The C.D. Howe Institute estimated in their June 15, 2021 report taxpayer subsidies climbed to $6.5 billion for the 2021/2022 fiscal year.  

A mere three days after release of the C. D. Howe report a cabinet shuffle occurred and Premier Ford appointed Todd Smith to what is now labelled simply; The Ministry of Energy.

We will look at Smith’s accomplishments and directions over his first 8 months in the next post so stayed tuned!

Author: parkergallantenergyperspectivesblog

Retired international banker.

5 thoughts on “Ontario Ratepayers Blinked, and Nothing Happened”

  1. Parker, I can hardly wait until you get to your bottom line about whether you would give the Ford government your vote for another term. I am so disgusted by their COVID restrictions and lockdowns that I probably would be inclined not to vote for them even if they had performed miracles with the electricity file, which of course they have not. The problem, as always for we poor Canadian voters, is that the main alternative governing parties all look even worse.

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  2. Parker, my understanding is avoidance of water taxes is the reason water is spilled: while wind is offering into the market at negative prices (as is nuclear), OPG’s regulated hydro is bidding in at the water tax rate. That’s why every year (last one so far still excepted) the IESO has reported curtailed wind but not curtailed hydro. OPG’s reporting shows us much more hydro has been foregone than wind curtailed.

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    1. “Reducing hydroelectric production, which often results in spilling of water, is the first measure used
      by the IESO (Independent Electricity System Operator) to manage SBG (Surplus Baseload
      Generation) conditions.” OPG 2016 Annual Report.

      Like

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