Ontario’s energy problem: too many “yes” ministers

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Unlike the brilliant BBC satire, Yes Minister, in which a minister of the Crown makes decisions with the advice of staff, Ontario’s energy portfolio has been headed by ministers who are inclined to say “Yes” when confronted by environmental non-government organizations (ENGOs).
   On June 2, 2008, the Toronto Star published an article by Tyler Hamilton, former environmental columnist for the paper, that described the ideas formulated by the ENGO crowd, including quotes from David Suzuki, Kristopher Stevens, Executive Director of the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association, as well as Deborah Doncaster, who was and still is heading up the Community Power Fund (a fund granted millions of dollars by those “Yes Ministers” of the McGuinty government).
    Doncaster once made a presentation to the committee established to review the premise of the Green Energy and Green Economy Act (GEA) and said this:  “Finally, we believe that one of the most significant features of the act is that it will create jobs—tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of jobs.”  We are still looking for those “hundreds of thousands of jobs.”
   Marion Fraser, who claims “architect” status of the GEA, was also quoted in that Tyler Hamilton article.
    The fact is, the individuals instrumental in persuading the then Energy Minister, George Smitherman, to produce the controversial GEA  are still around and are as active today as they were in 2008.
    Ontario has had six Energy Ministers since the start of 2008 (Gerry Phillips served twice) making the average term less than a year.  In that period, the various ministers issued 45 directives to the Ontario Power Authority dealing with all aspects and types of generation, smart meters,  smart grids,  transmission, conservation, grants (via the Community Power Fund), etc.  Is it really possible to understand Ontario’s complex electricity system in less than a year? Or is it possible that there is influence from individuals who are designing a system that will be beneficial to them and their close business associates?
    We are now about to see the current Minister of Energy Bob Chiarelli demonstrate his knowledge as he launches a purported  redesign of the Long-Term Energy Plan (LTEP) together with the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) and MicroFIT programs and the process for siting large generation projects.  The LTEP was a creation of Energy Minister, Brad Duguid, who launched it in November 2010 approximately one year after his appointment as Minister.
     Premier Wynne is big on “conversation” so Minister Chiarelli says he wants one with all interested parties.  The conversation is off balance, however, in that it appears that many conversations are one-on-one with ENGOs.  Look at the submission made by the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association (OSEA) on June 7, 2013  and you’ll see that conversations with the rest of Ontario will be taken with the proverbial grain of salt.  OSEA’s suggestions include the establishment of two committees to recommend changes to both the siting of large generation projects and the MicroFIT program.  In other words, the changes should be overseen by the very people who were responsible for the design of the GEA!
    Worse, it seems the intent is to continue actions spurred by the GEA that increase electricity costs, and benefit only those involved in sectors of the renewable energy business. To hell with Ontario’s ratepayers and taxpayers!
    Will this Minister abide by their wishes?
    Wind Concerns Ontario (WCO)  has already seen evidence that the concerns of rural Ontario will be ignored.   WCO’s submission to the joint task force (IESO/OPA), to review the “siting” of large energy projects was made after intense discussion and deliberation, and with the best of intentions.   The recommendations of WCO, and those of other stakeholders, were basically ignored in the OPA/IESO document provided to Minister Chiarelli on August 1, 2013, although they at least noted our involvement.
    The WCO and many community groups have encouraged and supported rural municipalities to pass resolutions to indicate they are “not a willing host” to monstrous industrial wind turbines; currently, 62 municipalities have done so. The submission by the joint committee on the “siting” aspect made no mention of the “willing host” concept.
   The principal influencing ENGO is OSEA, which not only published its June 7 recommendations, but also organized a “webinar series” in August, aimed at developing further input.  In a brazen demonstration of confidence in their role as an influential organization, they even invited Colin Andersen, CEO of the OPA, to join them.  (He wisely declined.)  The webinar panel is identified on the OSEA website and includes such luminaries as Chris Benedetti of the Sussex Group,  (which famously was seen in a leaked strategy document recommending that the Liberal Party “dupe” the public about the true cost of the  government’s push for green energy), and others who directly benefit from the FIT and MicroFIT program.
    No doubt the post-webinar OSEA recommendations presented to Minister Chiarelli (who met personally with Kristopher Stevens of OSEA recently) will favour the companies and individuals who benefit from the continued largesse of the GEA, FIT and MicroFIT programs.
    I expect that when the current Yes Minister of Energy Mr. Chiarelli deals with the LTEP he will do as his predecessors have done— ignore the public and accommodate the ENGOs.  Ontario ratepayers and taxpayers will continue to hand over their hard earned income via their electricity bills, to fulfill the ENGOs’ “green” dreams.
Parker Gallant,
August 15, 2013
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the policies of Wind Concerns Ontario.