Toronto Region Board of Trade Repowers

The Toronto Region Board of Trade is returning its attention to electricity concerns after falling silent on the subject since 2011.

Historically, the Toronto Region Board of Trade has done some solid work in this area. In comments in 2011, it identified that reliability of service in Toronto and rising electricity costs generally were pressing concerns. The Board of Trade supported its concerns with sensible recommendations — enhanced governance, adequate investment, stable planning, and increased transparency.

Unfortunately for consumers, the Board of Trade downed tools in 2011.

Now, it seems that the Board of Trade is re-engaging. Yesterday, the Board of Trade convened an energy roundtable discussion forum to aid its recently revived energy committee in framing issues for upcoming policy initiatives. Invitees and presenters represented a wide public and private stakeholders. I had the opportunity to attend.

Two perspectives that struck me as particularly grounded came from representatives of the Toronto steam utility Enwave and the Bank of Nova Scotia. Enwave’s representative pointed to the negative implications for the overall efficiency of Ontario’s electricity sector and for Class B customers in particular arising from the government’s recently announced lowering of the threshold for admission to Class A for customers from 3 MW to 1 MW. The Bank of Nova Scotia’s representative pointed out that many of the proposals floating around the room for expanding the mandate of electricity distributors to participate in a wider range of business and policy areas (e.g. technology research, generation investment, and generation contracting) could have negative consequences for their cost of capital.

My comments focused on the following:

I am encouraged by TRBOT’s return to the subject area and recommended sticking to themes of reliability and cost that featured prominently in the Board of Trade’s previous work.

Policy stability is not likely in Ontario’s electricity sector in the foreseeable future.

The reliability of transmission and distribution service to Toronto — particularly the downtown core — that TRBOT previously expressed concerns about are more pressing today than they were in 2011. TRBOT ought to research the underlying factors that threaten reliability.

The received wisdom is that conservation is the cheapest energy resource. Customer impacts of conservation must be distinguished from the customer impacts of costly conservation programs.

Energy infrastructure spending can only be rationally addressed in the context of the benefits provided. Seek to maximize the efficiency of infrastructure spending, not the amount of spending.

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