(ERO posting #013-3832, comments filed Oct 21)
Bill 34 claims to repeal the McGuinty government’s signature legislation — the Green Energy Act — yet the real effect of Bill 34 is to preserve the core of the McGuinty government’s original GEA.
The original Green Energy Act had Schedules A through L impacting nearly every corner of Ontario’s power situation. By contrast, Bill 34’s changes are almost exclusively limited to Schedule A of the original Green Energy Act.
The new legislation only repeals the first layer of the Green Energy Act — municipal government zoning powers — leaving the original law’s essential core intact. That essential core is empowering government ministers to issue directives to control Ontario’s energy future at whim.
Claims that the new legislation, Bill 34, will stop wind and solar miss the point. Expansions of these generation technologies were almost completely halted long before this legislation arrived.
While it is beneficial to the public interest to have input in power system planning from municipalities hosting sites identified as suitable for power generation development, the authors of Bill 34 exaggerate the importance of their work by claiming to “repeal” the Green Energy Act.
Where the Green Energy Act articulated in legislation a comprehensive program of power system planning based on central planning by the provincial government, Bill 34 adjusted this program only by introducing another layer of government into the mix. Despite the “repeal” of the GEA, central planning is still the core of Ontario’s power system governance.
The last time Ontario’s electricity situation was independently reviewed in a holistic way by an official inquiry was Advisory Committee on Competition in Ontario’s Electricity System, under the chairmanship of Donald S. MacDonald (who passed away last week). That Committee reported in May 1996. Despite more than two decades of official statements about Ontario’s power situation being subject to “unprecedented change” the circumstances of Ontario’s power situation today are strikingly similar to those that prevailed 21 years ago — rates are not recovering costs yet are still above market value, a temporary surplus of capacity currently burdens consumers, and customers are also burdened with significant long-term liabilities.
The Green Energy Act ought to be comprehensively repealed. A politized power system is not in the best interests of Ontario consumers over the long term. An excellent starting point for reorienting the power system toward stability and efficiency is to go back and review the work of the MacDonald Committee.
If the Green Energy Act were repealed in its entirety, would there not be a regulatory vacuum left in its wake? What would be the legal status of all the changes left in the wake of the Green Energy Act? Perhaps we need a new legislative framework which allows governments at all levels, but especially at the municipal level, to deal with the large swath of damage done under the umbrella of the GEA.