Sunday, September 11, 2011

2 Words Missing From the Ontario Liberals’ Platform

Forward. Together. The Ontario Liberal Plan 2011-2035” does not contain an electricity policy.  The platform, perhaps named as an homage to US President Nixon’s “Forward Together” slogan, has some very notable gaps where we’d expect some substance to be, the most notable of these being nuclear policy.  The word ‘nuclear’ does not appear once in the 60 page document.  I’m no Bob Woodward, but I’ll attempt the role in investigating why electricity policy went missing in the Liberal platform.

The government has been dictating electricity policy to the bureaucracy since early in Premier McGuinty’s 2nd term, despite the creation of the Ontario Power Authority specifically to provide integrated power system plans (IPSP).  The IPSP process featured the government directing, through a directive from the Minister of Energy, the supply direction that the OPA would incorporate into a long-term plan.    In 2005 the Supply Mix communication went to the OPA, and by 2007 an IPSP document was available for review, comments and adjustments.  The process died.  George Smitherman’s Ministry of Energy would suddenly alter the Supply Mix directive substantially.  By December of 2008 the OPA was advising they required more time to incorporate the changes, but following the introduction of the Green Energy and Green Economy Act, (GEGEA – or simply GEA), the OPA advised it would not be proceding until the new policy direction indicated by the GEA was understood.

The Green Energy Act essentially ended the electricity planning in Ontario being done by Ontario’s civil servants.  David Suzuki wrote, prior to the acts introduction, “...the Ontario government is getting behind a Green Energy Act proposed by the David Suzuki Foundation and a number of other organizations.”   Before we had the Green Energy Act, we had the Green Energy Act Alliance, including the David Suzuki Foundation and the Pembina Institute; Pembina’s page for Cherise Burda notes her “supporting role in securing the Ontario Green Energy Act.”  A group of non-governmental organizations, self-labeled as environmentalists (ENGO’s) are the likely authors of the GEA.

Late in 2010 a newer Minister of Energy would restart the IPSP process, first with the presentation of a long term energy plan (LTEP), and then the issuance of a new supply mix directive (SMD).  The OPA apparatus came back to life and once again began gathering information, and compiling cost estimates.  The “2011 IPSP Stakeholder Consultation Supply Presentation” prepared by Amir Shalaby, the ranking professional at the OPA, shows the lowest cost actual supply is ‘Nuclear Modernization’ (slide 38 here).    This refers to the possible refurbishment of reactors at Bruce Power, and at Darlington, which were included in the most recent supply mix directive.    

The mix of renewable and nuclear generation in the current supply mix directive is problematic – to anti-nuclear zealots, it is a basic aspect of their religion that it cannot occur.  The arguments are well summarized in the latest “World Nuclear Industry Report” in a section titled "Are Nuclear and Renewables Compatible?".  The first argument is that large centralized power-generation units lead to overcapacity, which leads to lower prices, which leads to higher consumption.  The second is that renewables require ‘complementary capacity’.  They don’t specify it, but that means natural gas (that can be turned down if it’s windy).  The current experiences in Ontario are mirroring recent years in Germany, and Germany is not now, nor is it likely to in the future, either reducing consumption more dramatically than Ontario, nor reducing GHG emissions from electricity.  Germans, already with an electricity generation emissions' intensity 4 times that of Ontario, are now claiming only that there is an emissions trading system in Europe so their new fossil fuel plants will have to be offset by reductions in emissions elsewhere - in poorer jurisdictions the Germans can buy the emissions cap from.

Prior to helping out with writing the GEA, Pembina’s Cherise Burda authored Plugging Ontario Into a Green Future.  The report shows that reducing unnecessary energy waste, switching to renewable energy, and recycling waste heat from industrial and commercial operations can provide enough baseload electricity to replace the ageing Pickering B and Bruce B nuclear stations as they reach the end of their lives and are shut down beginning in 2013.”  That’s not what our planners say, and yet the Liberal Platform gives a complete page, 40, to Cherise Burda’s endorsement. 

Mr. Suzuki is also given half of page 27 for a short quote..  A blog entry on the Suzuki site notes nuclear isn’t mentioned in the Liberal platform.  It seems likely to have been a condition of the endorsement – because that’s the only reason for an endorsement.  The blog entry notes the NDP position would “limit the Green Energy Act to public investment alone, even though most of the investment to date has been from the private sector.”  It’s hard to believe that shouldn’t be a badge of honour for the NDP.  The most recent FIT contracts went disproportionately to friends of the government – so much so that there is now a NAFTA action based on them.  Almost 80% of all the MW volume awarded went to either Suncor (who had just sat by the government through a challenge in an environmental tribunal), companies associated IPC (run by former provincial Liberal party president Mike Crawley), or companies controlled by Nextera, which had months prior acquired the services of former Liberal Premier Peterson’s law firm to lobby on their behalf.  I’ve noted before, on this blog, that much of the new private supply, of wind and gas generation, funded by cheap rates on public supply, is controlled out of Alberta by traditional coal and gas companies. 

FIT seems to work for large companies, and influential Liberals.

MicroFIT does not.

MicroFIT is the other word notably absent from the Liberal platform.  The rates were due for review this fall, and it looks like the review isn’t going to please their constituency.
Hydro One explained the problem connecting microFIT applicants in a video posted on Youtube just this week.  While FIT is for the few well-connected folks, microFIT now has generated almost 40000 applications.  Only 64MW of “executed contracts” have occurred, but that’s over 10 times the amount of 1 year ago.  

Connection problems have not only caused complaints, they’ve exposed some other negative outcomes that don’t appear to have been anticipated.  
There is little environmental benefit in awarding microFITcontracts to homeowners with big, leaky, houses stranded on rural lots festooned with SUVs.  The most gluttenous energy consumers on the planet are being paid thousands of dollars a year – including by energy conscious urbanites who bike, or take transit, to transport themselves.  Working farmland is being taken away from farming.  TheGlobe and Mail reported on a retired farmer lamenting the “lawn ornament’ that was supposed to be retirement money (electricity suppliers that don’t even consider the possibility of using the supply themselves!), and the TorontoStar reported on a ‘farmer’ hoping to install both solar panels and IWT’s, so they can get out of working on the other kind of pigs.  What neither of those publications reported on was the recently released June Farm Product Index.  Statistics Canada reported  crop prices, to producers, 23.4% higher than a year ago, with increases in all livestock categories including 16.5% for cattle.   These figures aren’t unique to Canada, and Ontario’s figures aren’t provided separately, but the coming food inflation will be a factor in our energy policy.

The Liberal platform omits the words nuclear and microFIT.  That seems to be in line with Kim Campbell's dictum that an election is no time to discuss issues,  but it also indicates their commitment to both may be weak.  The platform does say it is committed to FIT, a program that is providing Canada with legal challenges, both in the WTO and through NAFTA.  The FIT program is definitely providing benefits for a few people well-connected with the ruling elite.

President Nixon provided other iconic phrases the Liberals may adopt in the future.

1 comment:

  1. Page 41 also notes the contributions of one "Doctor" Gideon Forman.... nothing like credible sources.