Ontario Electricity System Operational Update #7: Green Energy, Cold Feet

This column, presenting new data showing the Ontario Liberals losing faith in their own green energy revolution, appeared in the National Post March 13. It is a testament to the opacity of the Ontario power system that this $11 billion cost reduction for consumers was only revealed in response to a Freedom of Information request.

Here is the FOI response from the OPA upon which the column draws. OPA FOI response re. RevReq to 2015

This new information goes some limited distance in rehabilitating the reputation of Chris Bentley as energy minister and also raises new questions about the state of play of electricity central planning in Ontario.

Bentley deserves recognition for lessening the impact on consumers of the decisions of his poverty-promoting predecessors, Smitherman and Duguid. Bentley’s internally inconsistency, extolling green energy while starting to curb the voracious gluttony unleashed by the Green Energy Act, appears hypocritical. However, this ambiguity may have been necessary maneuvering to manage pressure from interest groups that McGuinty’s previous actions had funded and helped to organize — outfits like the Ontario Sustainable Energy Alliance, the Community Power Fund, Pembina’s Ontario operations, and the Friends of the Greenbelt. These groups and their allies have been surprisingly quiet of late, but are very likely to become more aggressive in the political defence of the subsidies to which they have grown accustomed.

Ontario electricity consumers ought not take my argument for forgiveness too far. The full extent to which Bentley mitigated near-term rates by using government’s tired old trick of suppressing the flow-through of OPG’s costs remains a question mark. Nothing in my March 12 column should be taken as excusing Minister Bentley’s role in suppressing the facts of the real cost of the gas plant cancelations.

The OPA’s disclosure on revenue requirement underlines the necessity of a comprehensive update to the ministry-created Long Term Energy Plan (LTEP), issued about 28 months ago. The LTEP replaced the OPA-created Integrated Power System Plan (IPSP), issued 39 months prior to the LTEP. Unlike the IPSP, the LTEP was drafted without the benefit of a sharp box of crayons. The LTEP was laughably error-riddled when it was issued and has aged badly. In law, Ontario has staked its electricity future on Gosplans to be renewed every 24 months. However, as the OPA’s disclosure highlights, we now have central planning without a plan. If the current government had any sense of responsibility toward the province’s electricity future, it would allow the OPA to issue a plan setting out where we stand and the choices we have to make in the near term. The government’s shameful dodge of blaming the OPA for the gas plant relocation cost undercounting does not create conditions conducive to effective power system planning.

Post Script: April 12 6:30 am: The LTEP did not contain a revenue requirement projection, although it did contain a rate projection. Notice that normally rate projections are based on revenue requirement projections. The revenue requirement projection provided by the OPA in response to my FOI was based on a reconstruction. During the reconstruction process, errors and inconsistencies in the LTEP forced certain assumptions to be used so that a revenue requirement outlook could be generated.

On the Ottawa radio station CFRA on April 11, Energy Minister Chiarelli said during his interview: “We will be reviewing our Long Term Energy Plan this year.”