By Parker Gallant
October 21, 2010
One of a series: Ontario claims to have a long-term energy plan. So far, there’s no sign of it
In a surprise announcement earlier this month, the Ontario government pulled the plug on a new 900-megawatt gas generation plant in the Toronto suburb of Oakville. Since the contract to build the $1.3-billion plant had already been signed with TransCanada Corp., the provincial government is on the hook for undisclosed but likely substantial penalties. But there’s an even bigger surprise in the gas plant backdown. In announcing the reversal, Energy Minister Brad Duguid said the province was killing the plant because it no longer needed the power. “As we’re putting together an update to our Long-Term Energy Plan,” he said, “it has become clear we no longer need this plant in Oakville.”
The real surprise here is the reference to a “Long-Term Energy Plan.” No long-term plan exists, at least in any public sense. What does exist is a seven-year planning saga that has left a Keystone Kops trail of procedural mash-ups and a power policy shambles.
Few believe that the gas plant decision was anything more than a move to save the Liberals a couple of seats in the Oakville area, where a local protest movement brought in celebrity U.S. environmental icon Erin Brockovich to oppose the $1.3-billion project.
Mr. Duguid, pretending otherwise, makes it sound as if some orderly and rational process had determined precisely how much electricity Ontario will need in the future. But the history of long-term electricity planning under Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government and various energy ministers, including George Smitherman, now a candidate for mayor of Toronto, suggests anything but order and rationality.
The 900-megawatt plant Ontario now says it no longer requires was ordered only 12 months earlier based on a “directive” issued by Mr. Smitherman. In August 2008, Mr. Smitherman used his ministerial power to instruct the Ontario Power Authority to “move expeditiously” on the new Oakville power plant. “It would be prudent to finish this procurement process by the end of June 2009.” The OPA, which executes government policy in electricity, moved quickly and signed a deal with TransCanada in September 2009.
The cost of the Samsung deal, estimated at $7-billion to $10-billion depending on the method of assessment, will be passed on to electricity consumers, as will the massive costs of accommodating wind and solar power.