Hudak’s Green Waffles

Kathy Hamilton (who blogs here) and I have another column in the National Post March 4th print edition addressing the politics of power poverty in Ontario. (archived below in case something bad happens to the NP original)

Tomorrow’s column follows up on one we published in the Post October 10, 2013 called Ontario’s Next Energy Project.

A minor line edit error crept into the final version. Following the paragraph about Vic Fedeli’s paper…

The PCs have aligned themselves with the robust rural anti-windpower movement. In two recent speeches to the Toronto Regional Board of Trade last week, Mr. Hudak accordingly identified wind and solar subsidies as factors driving up rates.

Would be better if just:

The PCs have aligned themselves with the robust rural anti-windpower movement. In two recent speeches, Mr. Hudak accordingly identified wind and solar subsidies as factors driving up rates.

In researching this piece, I made an inquiry of the PC Energy Critic, Lisa MacLeod. I pointed out that on Rob Snow’s radio show on Tuesday Nov 20, 2013, she called for more long-term planning of the power system by the Ontario government and also for 1,000 MW of new hydro development in the north above and beyond what is being done by the Liberals. (Right now, there is a large amount of bottled and therefore useless generation in the north.) I asked, “Would this be contracted for through FIT contracts?” She declined to respond.

So long as the politics of electricity micromanagement in the form of “regional economic development” prevail over principles of efficiency and transparency, Ontario electricity consumers will suffer the consequences.

Post Script February 22/2017: This National Post column drew attention to the longstanding efforts of PC MPP Todd Smith in promoting green projects in his riding, projects that would have the effect of driving up the cost of power. With Mr. Smith’s recent appointment to the role of opposition energy critic, it will be important to see if Mr. Smith takes a bigger picture view of his advocacy role above and beyond simply promoting local economic development in his riding irrespective of overall value for ratepayers.

(from the NP online edition)
Hudak’s green waffles

Ontario PCs oppose wind, solar subsidies, but back biomass, storage

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals are deeply committed to their Green Energy and Green Economy Act, which has delivered rocketing power rates, scandal and wide ranging concerns about subsidy-dependent industrialization in rural areas hosting wind developments.

Judging by her party’s long standing, consistent positions, Andrea Horwath’s New Democrats will campaign on expanding conservation programs and reducing power exports to bring down power rates. Expect the NDP to avoid answering how the underlying math works.

Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives have a golden opportunity.

Almost two years ago, the PC’s appeared to have a plan to fight power poverty. They had kicked off their policy discussion series with an electricity policy paper highlighting concern for the long term interests of consumers. Examples: “Government does not need to micromanage every decision made in the power sector””¦”competitive bidding for power contracts will start to move us back in the right direction””¦”cancel the non-competitive feed-in tariff program.”

Another indication that the PCs might push the pendulum towards consumers was Finance Critic Vic Fedeli’s paper issued in January addressing the 7% Debt Reduction Charge ““ a dedicated electricity tax that appears on all Ontario power bills. Consistent with the earlier policy paper, Fedeli argued, “when the government needed money for other expenses, it diverted these funds toward those purposes, prolonging the amount of time Ontario families and employers will be required to pay the Debt Reduction Charge.”

The PCs have aligned themselves with the robust rural anti-windpower movement. In two recent speeches to the Toronto Regional Board of Trade last week, Mr. Hudak accordingly identified wind and solar subsidies as factors driving up rates.

But, talking points aside, Hudak’s camp is simultaneously marching in the opposite direction.

Hudak’s energy critic has criticized the Liberals for going too slow with northern hydro-electric development, apparently oblivious to the terrible economics of new waterpower projects.

The PCs have been promoting non-competitive procurement of high-cost/low-value power developments in Prince Edward-Hastings, a rural riding east of Toronto. The local PC MPP, Todd Smith, has fired off several Order Paper questions promoting these projects over the last two years.

Smith has demanded a fat government contract for a biomass facility proposed for the town of Bancroft. The developer had argued that the price the government promised for output from biomass generators ““ 13.8 cents/kWh with 20% escalation indexed to inflation, which matched the offer to wind developers ““ must be sweetened further before that project could proceed. The Liberals are now guaranteeing 15.6 cents/kWh with 50% escalation, 75% above the current household price for the commodity portion of the bill. The consumer impact appears irrelevant to Smith.

Smith has also hounded the Minister of Energy over why he has “delayed in arriving at a contract to produce power” for the pumped energy storage project in the Municipality of Marmora and Lake. Proposed by Toronto-based Northland Power, the project is designed to counter the grid problems caused by fickle wind and solar output ““ which Northland also develops. The currently estimated cost is in the order of $700-million. Far from producing power, net electricity losses will be in the order of at least 20% of ultimate production. All these costs and more would end up added to customer’s bills over the next 40 years if Northland gets the government contract it seeks.

After having visited the site for that pumped storage proposal in January, Mr. Hudak labelled it “environmentally friendly” and complained that the Liberal government was “dragging its heels” on the project. Without the benefit of any publicly disclosed cost/benefit studies or public consultations with anyone other than proponents, he declared that the project “makes sense.”

Like the Tory-backed biomass project, the Tory-backed pumped storage project has so far proved too rich for the blood of even Ontario’s Liberals.

As his recent speeches demonstrate, Hudak keeps dancing around what he would replace McGuinty’s Green Energy and Green Economy Act with, while the party continues supporting many elements of it that would generate misery for consumers.
Does this encompass the post-election PC plan we should expect?

Tom Adams is a Toronto-based energy consultant. Kathy Hamilton is a Marmora homeowner.