Updating Ontario’s energy debacle shows that Toronto and Ottawa have now achieved the highest electricity rates in Canada. And a new wheel falling off the bus has crushed 340 jobs. Kelly McFarland reports the news in Another wheel flies off Ontario’s green energy bus, and lands on 340 workers.
When former premier Dalton McGuinty visited the new Siemens Canada plant in Tillsonburg in 2011, he brushed aside protesters and boasted that the plant was part of the Liberal alternative energy plan that would “put us at the forefront in North America.”
The plant made windmill blades. Windmills were the future. Clean energy was what McGuinty’s two-year-old Green Energy Act was all about. It would free the province of old, dirty manufacturing and introduce new, cutting-edge jobs that would make Ontario the envy of the world.
Just six years later the plant is closing. Management says big changes in the wind industry make it no longer viable. The cutting edge plant that was to help lead Ontario into the Valhalla of a clean energy future can’t survive in a market that wants bigger blades.
Siemens Wind Power chief executive David Hickey was careful not to blame the Liberal change in plans for the Tillsonburg closing, but plenty of others were happy to. Companies like Siemens come for the subsidies, and when the subsidies disappear, so do they, said independent industry analyst Tom Adams. Ontario has poured so much into its green energy dream the market is saturated, he said. Hickey said the market is shifting west: Alberta and Saskatchewan are “the key opportunities of the future.”
The impact of all this virtue signaling falls on ratepayers. The detailed accounting is presented in It’s official: Toronto and Ottawa are now the most expensive cities for electricity
Ontario’s electricity price increases were more than double the national average.
To get a sense of how much more Ontarians pay compared to the rest of the country, consider a comparison of monthly electricity bills between Toronto and Montreal, Canada’s two largest cities. In 2016, the estimated average monthly electricity bill (including taxes) for Torontonians was $201, or roughly $2,400 for the year. Residents of Montreal only paid an estimated $83 per month, or just under $1,000 per year. That’s an extra $1,400 a year that Montrealers can spend on other priorities because of lower electricity prices.
A large part of the blame rests on poor policy choices at Queen’s Park. One such policy has been the government’s poorly structured long-term contracts for renewable energy generation, like wind and solar. These contracts place ever-increasing costs on consumers, despite the fact that renewables accounted for only 6.8 per cent of electricity generation in 2016.
The province’s phase-out of coal-fired electricity has also proved costly and unnecessary. Indeed, noted environmental economist Ross McKitrick found that Ontario could have achieved the same environmental benefits of the phase-out (at one-tenth the cost) by simply completing the retrofitting of Ontario’s coal-fired plants.
Another issue is the imbalance between the supply and demand of electricity in the province. When the province’s energy generation exceeds demand, it must be exported — quite often at a loss — leaving Ontario ratepayers to cover the difference.
Does anyone remember the last time anything positive emerged from Ontario’s electricity industry, battered and bruised from 13 years of Liberal government manhandling? Hydro rates so punitive the Liberals have applied layer on layer of subsidies, borrowing the money or pushing debt onto future generations to do so. An estimated $45 billion extra in future costs so the government can reduce consumer bills now, as it campaigns for re-election. Billions lost selling power at a loss to the U.S., which will now be made easier by approval of a power line under Lake Erie.
Liberal energy strategy was always predicated on the belief that politicians could dictate to the market and control the outcome. Despite overwhelming evidence that governments do badly when they try to remove the freedom from free enterprise, Wynne and McGuinty ploughed ahead in their determination to impose their vision on Canada’s biggest province and most important economy. The result has been a catalogue of disasters. The $2 billion smart meter program that proved a bust at reducing demand; the gas plant construction projects halted in mid-campaign to protect a few Liberal seats; the doubling of consumer electricity bills; the army of windmills marching across vast expanses of rural Ontario, defacing the landscape while producing pricey, unneeded power.