Is Conservation Saving You $$$: Podcast for Jan. 15 900CHML Interview

A podcast for my appearance on the AM900 Scott Thompson show January 15 is available here.

The show title was “Smart meters, a failed experiment in energy conservation?”. The discussion kicked off with Scott asking about the Environmental Commissioner’s proposal to increase on-peak power rates.

The main subjects covered were:

  • The same folks who promised that wind power would replace coal power now say conservation saving you money.
  • Ontario power system has a truth problem. Getting a straight answer on what is happening is sometime impossible.
  • A hidden carbon tax is already tacked onto your power bill.
  • The Smart Meter program is just one example of how due diligence is out of fashion inside Ontario’s power system.
  • Information you are not allowed to see include payments to generators for non-production.
  • Wind/solar often fail to deliver when you need power most. For example, Scott Luft’s analysis shows that recently wind and solar delivered just 3% productivity during peak demand.

“The same people who have been ruining our power system are today signing up more contracts for junk generation.”


  1. I can certainly appreciate the cynicism of most consumers regarding yet another government attempt to sway consumer behaviour. Conservation is very effectively implemented in many jurisdictions across the world. However, it works best under certain conditions, most of which no longer exist in Ontario, including the following:
    1. integrated resource planning – without an integrated approach to allowing conservation (both energy and capacity-based) to compete directly with supply-side resources, there will be substantial inefficiencies in implementation; governments or their bureaucrats will basically be guessing as to which conservation approaches, if any, are most appropriate compared to building new or shutting down existing supply-side resources
    2. independent regulation – without transparent, comprehensive and independent regulatory scrutiny, winners and losers will be picked by the bureaucrats and politicians (sound familiar?)
    3. proper costing – the full costs of each of the demand and supply alternatives, including things like emissions and non-energy benefits, need to be determined and accounted for, otherwise subsidies and penalties will continue to occur but will just be hidden and suboptimal; as an example, many people squawked at first when BC implemented its revenue-neutral carbon tax, but it is by and large a transparent tax that has been effective at lowering carbon emissions by letting consumer behaviour and a competitive economy lower emissions rather than leaving the process once again to the best guesses of bureaucrats and politicians, where “best” often means whose interests will be “best” served

    I concur with Tom that at the system-wide level, reducing consumption further through conservation while bringing on high-cost generation at the same time, moreover in the context of dropping domestic demand, is pure foolishness.

    Ironically, however, it has never been a better time for individuals to conserve, particularly those who can afford to make the capital investments and have control over their electricity consumption (i.e. they own their residence or building rather than renting). The avoided cost of electricity for most residential consumers is above 20 cents/kWh. It is the reason my residence now consumes only 1/3 the electricity it did in 2007. Were some of these benefits of conservation undermined by increased electricity rates? Yes. But the $1,500 (and growing) I save per year, is well worth the less than $5,000 I spent to achieve those savings. Of course, this would not work if everyone were to conserve — unless we stop building new generation and also shut down or do not replace higher-cost (and properly costed) existing generation.

    To summarize, the problem is not conservation per se, but the planning, regulatory and economic context into which it is now being promoted.

    • It it cost me about 4 times what you spent and my Hydro One bill is about 3 times higher than it was back in 2009.

      If I conserve anymore I will be using almost no electricity but still paying the “delivery” charges.

  2. Demand side management has a very long history. Has been used by dictators for centuries to control people.

    Control of the essentials of life like food, water and fuel have worked very well to control people. In modern times electricity is an essential for life and can be included.

  3. People are not only driving their vehicles across the border they are also filing containers to bring back what amounts to another tank full of gas.

    Trucks fuel up in the U.S. with enough fuel to drive right through Ontario.

    People know how to avoid taxes.

  4. Like Rick above, I really wish your headline referred to conservation PROGRAMS and not to conservation. The higher our marginal cost of electricity rises — and it’s still rising, despite fixed charges on the bill — the more individual ratepayers benefit from cutting their consumption.
    Whether or not that benefits the Ontario economy as a whole (or the planet), or whether it leads to a “Last one out, please pay for Darlington” spiral, is a debate worth having. But I don’t think it’s nice to slow people down who are tempted to make themselves more nearly self-sufficient in energy in general or electricity in particular.

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