Energy is economic policy, not a social program

By MPP Toby Barrett

Reliable and affordable energy, free from political interference, is fundamental to a thriving economy. And it starts by treating energy as an economic policy, not a social program.

It’s not the role of government to micro-manage the day-to-day technical decisions in any sector of the economy. Government’s responsibility is to promote transparency, set the rules of the game, and then get out of the way.

That said, you simply can’t say you’re going to stop micro-managing the day-to-day decisions in energy if you own and operate the largest power plants, the entire transmission system and the biggest distributor. It’s time to open both Hydro One and Ontario Power Generation to private-sector investment.

The goal is to create more efficient companies that are not solely reliant on public
money and who are held to the same high standards flourishing private sector companies abide by daily.

At the same time, we must end the public subsidization of wind and solar energy through The Green Energy Act – a grim case of politicians mistaking themselves for investment bankers and engineers.

Renewable energy can be desirable as part of a balanced supply mix, but the problem is that Ontario is awash with wind and solar power at a time when demand is declining. This has created a substantial and expensive surplus, which we sell at a loss to Quebec and US states.

The Feed-in Tariff program has been given three years to work, but it hasn’t led to a green manufacturing renaissance or 50,000 good jobs. The daily headlines reveal problem after problem.

We propose an immediate halt to all new projects still in the approval queue. All existing projects that are connected to the grid will remain in place, but we can’t keep contracting for power that we don’t need at prices consumers can’t afford.
We would also restore the local decision-making powers over industrial wind and solar farms the Green Energy Act explicitly took away.

Countries around the world, where this type of energy policy began decades ago are now backing away. It’s time Ontario did the same.

I know that has long been the sentiment of Haldimand Wind Concerns who hosted 200 people for a fundraiser this past week. Vice President Ernie King reported on a year filled with optimism that turned to frustration as “unresolved issues”, including medical records and 176 pre-hearing questions, left, “no chance for a rural community at an Environmental Review Tribunal.”

Ontario must back away from the costly Green Energy Act while we ensure a cost-effective plan for our energy future.

Many recall it wasn’t that long ago natural gas was an expensive fuel source. Today it’s very cheap and provides dependable power on short notice.

Ontario must also maintain nuclear power as it presently provides half our power needs. But the fleet is aging – some reactors will close. Ontario will lose over 3,000 megawatts of baseload generation permanently when Pickering is decommissioned at the end of 2020.

Energy has moved from being an asset to a liability on Ontario’s balance sheet. We require a different approach, where affordable energy is a crucial part of an integrated and comprehensive plan and economic policy, to attract ambitious entrepreneurs with groundbreaking ideas who will create well-paying jobs here in Ontario.