Hydro One should get the chance to fight the WRAP regulations, but improvements must be made
The latest move from Hydro One shows good intention, wise experience and conscientious thinking to put Ontarians first. The province is poised to meet its obligations under the United Nations’ Paris climate agreement but will not accept onerous new regulation.
A move by Ontario’s government has worked around the nuclear deal with Bombardier and a US trade embargo
Conversations with several Liberal insiders reveal that the deal as well as the origins of the climate change plan have changed. Energy Minister Greg Rickford and Environment Minister Rod Phillips agreed that increasing the price of electricity is part of the province’s goals to decarbonize. While Ontario and other provinces have introduced carbon pricing, Canada has not yet introduced a national carbon price. In Ontario, electricity users face higher electricity bills, but the leaders have agreed to curtail the growth and grow efficiencies to reach 2050, using energy generated from renewable sources to do so.
The biggest challenge is Ontario’s poor network, which is run by Hydro One. Hydro One’s acquisition of Progressive Power Asset Corp. (PSAC) by the Ontario Liberals in 2014 left the province in debt, a controversial deal that has been politicized. As the premier, Kathleen Wynne, moved to change the rules on how Hydro One is run, the NDP made sure to do all they could to call it an issue. Negotiations with Hydro One on the issue almost stalled, which forced the province to look elsewhere to find a solution. However, taking the energy issue to court was not the best decision. The NDP thought that if they won the power in the November provincial election, the move to charge more electricity rates would stall in a quick fashion and the government would not have the chance to fix things.
What about gas?
In an opinion column, Matthew Foudy, chair of the Pembina Institute’s clean and green energy trade group and energy strategist for Ontario political environment for Pembina, argues the best move for the government.
Yes, we were disappointed that the NDP did not come to the table immediately with a plan to reform Hydro One. However, New Democrat’s refusal to compromise on the shareholder deal to sell an additional $5 billion of Hydro One stock contributed to the decline in Hydro One’s shares. Higher rates for Ontario Hydro users and an increasing windfall for shareholders are not good at all. The NDP has also used the issue of electricity rates as a wedge issue. New Democrats say only a big increase in gas taxes will balance the budget. They are missing the point. The need to balance the books is something the province will have to do over the next 30 years, but we should still provide the resources to the necessary technology and research – affordable high energy rates are also vital.
New Democrats should not allow their focus on increasing gas taxes to be so singular. Energy policies across the province, such as REMissions, take a strong three-pronged approach – long-term stability, health benefits, and fiscal savings. A deal with the WRAP on electricity regulations that includes electricity increases is something Ontarians are owed. New Democrats should start making their arguments in support of coal to the electric utilities and give the deal a chance. This will build public confidence, hopefully to swing the final votes, to signal that the future is looking bright for Ontario.
Hard to pander to the public: the Ontario NDP should abandon gas tax pledge Read more
Green Democrats – and the council – need to stay out of the partisan fray
The Green party’s future national chair, Duncan Mitchell, suggests a transition away from Coal to clean energy technologies should be further explored by the NDP. By making a formal commitment, the party would have a concrete deal with the Liberals and would create a further delay of investment in the carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. In 2018, the federal government has only committed to investing $263m in CCS technology. The federal Liberals announced in 2018 their intention to phase out coal by 2030 and the party now runs out of years. If the Green party is serious about adding weight to public opinion for cleaner energy policy – it should recognize that there is an energy transition to manage and rather than outright abandoning CCS, it should help find a better approach that can be more widely adopted.