Questioning Ontario’s Energy Central Planning

Ontario, we have a plan! Having promised that its central planning program for Ontario’s power system would be supported by a public review process, the McGuinty government has never delivered on that promise until now. Or has it?

On November 23rd, Energy Minister Brad Duguid released a Long Term Energy Plan (LTEP).  Less a plan and more a plank in the upcoming election platform, what we got was a brochure filled with more rhetoric than substance.

The plan offers a partisan version of Ontario’s electricity history. All the new or refurbished power plants to come on-line since the Liberals came to power in 2003 are Liberal achievements notwithstanding that many of the largest additions were committed prior to 2003 and some of the new additions are performing abysmally. We are told electricity prices only increased by 4.5% per year on the Liberal watch, although no supporting documentation is provided and consumers who have seen increases much higher than that may wonder about the math.

Much of the document is taken up with punishing repetition of the government’s mind-numbing election platform key messaging track. Duguid used the word “we” or “we’ve” 23 times in his forward. “We are on track to eliminate coal by 2014.” We will have a “clean” and “reliable” energy supply with no more “dirty coal” and 50,000 green jobs.

Mixed in with the self-congratulatory key messaging is a plan of sorts. The plan tells us we must sink the princely sum of $87 Billion into new assets. The emphasis is on new wind power, refurbishing all of the province’s expiring nuclear plants, and building two new reactors. No explanation is provided as to how the lights will stay on when the wind doesn’t blow or if the big nuclear projects end up like all the ones completed to date. Based on the costs of current nuclear refurbishment projects in Canada, almost the entire proposed nuclear budget of $33 billion would be swallowed fixing existing reactors with little left to pay for new reactors.

Other Liberal messaging words are “dirty” and “unreliable”, always in reference to Ontario’s power system pre-McGuinty.  Dirty might better be applied to the vast sums of public money cycled through government to non-arms length environmental organizations who lobby for the government’s agenda. Dirty might also be applied to vast non-tendered deals with giant foreign multinationals whose names don’t appear on the provincial Integrity Commissioner’s Lobbyist Registry. Unreliable might better be applied to the underpowered transmission system that inflicted a green blackout to the Toronto downtown core this July.

The plan attacks coal as evil: “air-polluting”, “health related damages”, “polluting”, “impact on health” “greenhouse gas emissions”, “dirty”, etc., etc. After the first dozen or so of these you get the message that the Liberals believe coal generation is really, really bad. The plan somehow avoids mention of the fact that the next coal plants the Liberals will close in Ontario have much better emission controls than most of the coal generators Ontario routinely buys from south of the border.

With so much effort directed at messaging, the plan leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Based on our experience, don’t expect answers.

A few examples of the questions we posed to the Ministry: On the nuclear portion of the plan we noted that while the plan is to refurbish 10,000 MW we only have 8,200 MW available for refurbishment. Where does the additional 1,800 MW come from? The plan is effusive about special rate relief programs for big industry and households, but what is the rate trajectory for medium sized businesses not in line for any of the special deals?

The Ministry responded to us last week. We were pointed to four (4) directives that Duguid had issued the same day as he released his LTEP and told,

“I hope this information is helpful to you. The Long-Term Energy Plan itself contains answers to many of your questions.”

It would appear that the public won’t be able to get answers to its questions until the Ontario Power Authority has filed with the Ontario Energy Board a more detailed plan based on the LTEP and the directives the government has issued. By that time the election will be over and we will hopefully have some clearer thinking on our electricity future.

Although they bravely keep trying to brand their electricity thinking as “smart” and “long term”, the actual Liberal plan is to stick to rhetoric while they continue to administer the electricity sector in Ontario by panic-driven Ministerial directives. Confuse the public, as proposed by a renewable energy industry communications guide leaked two weeks ago, appears to be exactly the strategy and intent.

Tom Adams & Parker Gallant


  1. OK, Brad claims my hydro bill has gone up a mere “4.5%/year” since the Liberals came to power. I’m not good at compound interest – both of you no doubt are more familiar with such calculations. Correct my figures as necessary. I do know that to get the “doubling” time, one divides 72 by the interest rate; hence, 72/4.5 means the cost would double in 16 years, right?
    My hydro bill for July, 2003 was (pretax, but all other costs included) $111.84 for 1136 kwh = ~ $.0985/kwh.
    My bill for July, 2010 was $138.47 for 917 kwh = $.151
    Giving a difference of $.0525.
    The percentage increse is 53% in 7 years, so my simple math says that my bill will double in no more than 14 years – probably before that by a year or two.
    Remember, I’m just a peasant; but, I get the feeling I’ve been “taken to the cleaners”, especially insulting when one considers that we “country folk” are to bear the nuisance of these worthless steel totems/idols that are appearing all over rural Ontario – especially in the SW where there seems to be an erection every day.
    I don’t care about ethics anymore;but, logic or, dare I say it, “simple common sense” would be welcome.

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