Sunday, June 17, 2018

Ontario Electricity: Backgrounder and suggestions for Premier Ford

Ontario has a new Premier. Congratulations to Doug Ford who, despite my recent quiet, is receiving a lot of free advice on addressing costs in Ontario's electricity. Some of it good, but much of it not only bad, but based on flawed views of how Ontario's residential and small business consumers came to experience rapid rate growth.[2] I also have noted some advice - from academics - is oblivious to the new political reality of Ontario. Before getting into thoughts on controlling electricity costs, I'll provide my perspective on the politics of the situations that will determine which suggestions are actionable.

I wrote very little in the run-up to the election because it struck me as a race to the bottom. I used to write on things that angered me (to some extent), and then I'd hope to edit out my annoyance based on, "Nobody cares that I'm angry. What is my point?" This election the point seemed to be people were beyond angry with Kathleen Wynne. I'd call it disgusted. There's a saying in politics that "anger is not sustainable." That's probably true but around the time her government was introducing the ridiculous [un]Fair Hydro Plan I'd wondered if the Wynne policy team had let the anger of the first half of her mandate develop into disgust. Disgust is not an emotion, it's a sense. I was curious to see if I was wrong, and a climb up in the polls was possible for Premier Wynne. I don't think I was wrong - I do think the election was about this sense of disgust, and I found it so unpleasant I voted in the first hour of advanced polling and then tried to ignore it altogether.

I realize many of the angriest were people who follow my blog and know about the Liberal party's enormously wasteful performance in the electricity sector. The waste cost most Ontarians money, but not food, or housing, or heating. With the election over, and the previous governing party embarrassed by failing to win enough seats for official party status, I am hoping many will start the new era of Ford's rule by editing out their anger and trying to find their point. This is not a kumbaya moment though. A real cost reduction of the scope promised by incoming Premier Ford will require tough choices harming real people and angering numerous constituencies, but particularly the one known in the electricity sector as "stakeholders."

Political Constraints

The political reality of the election is pricing carbon is dead: Doug Ford took the leadership in the race for leading the Progressive Conservatives by opposing the recently implemented current cap-and-trade system in Ontario and the federal government's demand province's implement some regime. I'll try to avoid the topic - and fail (but hopefully only once).

Functional Constraints

Ontario's electricity, if mine is any indication, is pretty reliable (the lights stay on) and it is exceptionally clean, with very low emissions of greenhouse gases. My views on what can be done to control costs is influenced by two concerns that I don't see noted very often:
  • capacity
  • industrial electricity costs