Ontario’s ECO says It’s the end of the world!

Cooked! says the enviro commissioner in her last, histrionic report

The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO), Dianne Saxe, released what appears to be her final “independent”* report on March 27, 2019 — it was full of hyperbole!  A CTV article issued after her news conference at Queens Park about the report carried this quote from her:  “If the world can’t hold together on the Paris Agreement we are toasted, roasted and grilled.”

The Saxe quote immediately reminded me of a very humourous Beyond the Fringe video from 1961 titled “The End of the World”. The cast: Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller, Dudley Moore and Alan Bennett are seated, huddled, on the top of a mountain waiting for The End of the World. Needless to say, the “End of the World” didn’t arrive so they agreed to meet “the same time tomorrow” in case it did.

End-of-the-world claims are common these days, it seems: in 2009, Al Gore claimed the Polar Ice Cap would be entirely melted in five to seven years. Turns out to be another wrong prediction, but the humour was missing, much as it is missing from the ECO’s remarks to the media and in her report.

Ms. Saxe’s lead in to the report is titled “FOSSIL FUEL CONSERVATION WOULD FIGHT CLIMATE CHANGE WHILE SAVING ONTARIANS BILLIONS” and the report itself is titled: “A Healthy, Happy, Prosperous Ontario 2019 Energy Conservation Progress Report, Why we need more energy conservation”.

We heard very many similar stories in the past about how Ontarians could “save billions!“

If one looks back to an article from October 29, 2004 Dwight Duncan, then Ontario Minister of Energy, was defending the $2.3 billion cost of smart meter installations. In a media report “Duncan wants the meters installed so residents and businesses can save money by using electricity in off-peak hours. He says Italy saved so much money that consumers there did not have to pay for the meters. But he doesn’t know if Ontario electricity users will be that lucky.”

Needless to say, we weren’t that lucky!

Several years later when George Smitherman held the post of Energy Minister he testified April 9, 2009 before the Standing Committee on General Government in respect to the Green Energy and Green Economy Act. One of his offerings to the Committee was the big promise: “We anticipate about 1% per year of additional rate increase associated with the bill’s implementation over the next 15 years. Our estimate of cost increases is based upon the way that we actually amortize costs in the energy sector. The research contracted by the official opposition does not. Their report apportions capital costs without consideration of the life of the asset, or, put another way, they didn’t amortize those costs. Their report counts the costs for conservation programs without providing any benefit for reduced consumption by the consumer.”

The new ECO report is 268 pages reiterating these same messages we ratepayers and taxpayers have been hearing, over and over again, for the past 15 years. Is Ms. Saxe unaware the Ontario voters reduced legislative seats held by Liberal MPPs to seven and the principal reason behind their fall from grace was the energy/electricity file? In searching the report, the words “electricity conservation” garners 175 hits and the word “electricity” generates 799 findings. The word “renewables” provides 66 hits and the word “billion” is used 53 times.

Ms. Saxe sincerely believes the world will come to an end unless Ontario’s ratepayers and taxpayers freeze in the dark or pay dearly for any energy consumed!

Ontario’s ECO wants Ontario’s ratepayers and taxpayers to reduce their fossil fuel consumption** while China’s power industry has called for hundreds of new coal power plants to be built by 2030. They have asked the government to allow for the development of between 300 and 500 new coal power plants by 2030 in a move that could single-handedly jeopardize global climate change targets.

That puts a damper on what Ontario might hope to achieve to prevent being “toasted, roasted and grilled”. Perhaps if each of the taxpayers of the province were paid the $207,676.40, the “Sunshine List” disclosed Ms. Saxe was paid in 2018 as the ECO, we would be happy to absorb higher prices for electricity or could buy an expensive EV to reduce our fossil fuel consumption. Until that happens, Ms. Saxe should tone down her expectations!

Ms. Saxe should realize if we are freezing in the dark it is difficult to be “happy, healthy and prosperous”!

Until then, let’s meet “same time tomorrow.”

PARKER GALLANT

*The Premier Ford led government has decreed the ECO should in the future report directly to the Auditor General.

**Fossil fuel consumption in Ontario in 2015 was (petroleum products and natural gas) 2,269 pj (petajoule) with a value of $16.8 billion according to the report and Ontario generated GDP (gross domestic product) of $618 billion meaning fossil fuels contributed only 2.7% of our GDP.

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Dicey math in ECO report on Ontario’s electricity costs

Appalling math supports agenda-laden report from the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario

How does a car in a driveway explain millions lost selling off surplus power? You have to read the ECO report to understand. Maybe. [Photo G Hills Law]
April 11, 2018

The 322-page report Making Connections Straight Talk About Electricity in Ontario is mind boggling in its attempt to redefine simple mathematics.

As one example, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario or “ECO” deals with “energy poverty”: “According to 2015 data, Canada’s National Energy Board found 7% of Ontarians to be energy poor”.

Checking the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) annual Yearbook of Electricity Distributors for 2016, Ontario had 4,612,551 residential customers — so, 7% would represent 322,878 “energy poor” households in the province.

The OEB’s December 22, 2014 report noted: “Using LIM* as a measuring tool, and relying on Statistics Canada household data, Ontario has 713,300 low-income households. The OESP** is estimated to reach 571,000. This estimate recognizes that not all low-income households in the province pay their electricity bills directly (i.e., utilities included in rent).”  Those 713,300 low-income households represented about 15.5% of all households in the province.

So, in one simple sentence, the Commissioner’s reference to energy poverty makes almost 400,000 “energy poor” households simply disappear!

Yet another claim is made in the report where in large bold letters it states: “Ontario sells its surplus power to other jurisdictions for more than it costs to make that power.” Here is the analogy used to explain this claim in the commissioner’s report: if you lend your car to a friend to drive when you are not driving it and he pays you $20 it reduces your annual cost.  The reasoning related to the electricity sector is explained by the ECO:

“The surplus power that we export costs us little or nothing extra on top of the fixed costs, because: Our renewable power has extremely low operating costs; and Our nuclear plants cost virtually the same whether they are making power or not.”

What is deliberately omitted in the report is the unreliability and intermittency of renewable energy; favouritism towards industrial wind turbines is clearly visible in the text. ECO Dianne Saxe has demonstrated support for wind power development and even invested in one that stands at Exhibition Place in Toronto (which seldom generates power).  A plaque at the bottom bears her name.

The “how” we lose money on industrial wind is easily visible to most with a little effort. As an example, IESO rates the ability of wind to be counted on to produce power only 12.9% of the time when it will be needed.  What that means is, while average generation of wind power over one year may amount to 30% of capacity, IESO’s reliance on wind dependable for planning purposes is about one third of its probable annual output.

The foregoing has been borne out by others including a peer reviewed paper titled Ontario’s High-Cost Wind Millstone prepared for the Council for Clean and Reliable Energy. Author Marc Brouillette states: “Two-thirds (65 per cent) of wind generation is surplus to demand and must be wasted or dissipated either through forced curtailment of hydro and nuclear generation or by increased exports to Quebec and the United States, generally at low prices.”

Another recent report I wrote suggests forced curtailment of hydro, nuclear, wind, net exports, conservation and costs of backup for wind and solar generation, i.e., gas plants, were more than $6 billion in 2017 added to our electricity bills.

In other words, the ECO’s claims are not only incorrect, they are an insult to common sense and math literacy.

Parker Gallant

* Statistic’s Canada’s Low-Income Measure is simply defined as half of the median adjusted economic family income. Adjusted means family size has been factored in.”

**Ontario Electricity Support Program