Green energy comedy not that funny

By JIM MERRIAM, Barrie Examiner

In the early years of the 20th century we had the Keystone Kops for comic relief. Mack Sennett’s boys stumbled and fumbled their way through a variety of misadventures, in both starring roles and as background goofs to the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Fatty Arbuckle.

Some 60 years later, we had The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight, a Mafia comedy. The gang first appeared in a novel by the great Jimmy Breslin before becoming a movie.

Flash forward 40-odd years and as we enter the second decade of the 21st Century we have the Dalton Gang.

You can watch this gang’s antics on everything from dogs to cigarettes if you want to see fumbling and bumbling that ranks right up there with the most famous antics of the past. But if you really want a hoot, watch the energy file.

The downward spiral in energy policy began when George Smitherman held the portfolio. By the time Smitherman started Ontario on the road to what was supposed to be worldwide leadership in green energy policy, his political flower had pretty much wilted. Toronto Mayor Rob Ford finished the weeding process when he trounced Smitherman in last October’s municipal elections for king of the Big Smoke. But I digress.

Instead of showing outstanding leadership on energy, Ontario is rapidly becoming the green energy laughingstock of the free world.

Look at some of the nonsense that has gone on. First Ontario started out with a plan to pay a premium for solar-produced energy from property owners in the province.

When that became too popular, hence too expensive, the Dalton Gang changed the rules in midstream, reducing the rate.

A storm of protest followed and so the gang restored the higher price for investors already well into private solar projects.

Now we find out that a number of folks who were bitten by solar bug can produce power that has no place to go. Granted, a number of projects are up and working and producing return for the individuals. But others face problems such as lack of infrastructure to carry their locally produced power to the grid.

Then there’s wind. So far the Gang seems to have been able to ignore the storm of protest from folks about the problems with land-based wind turbines or windmills. But offshore is a different issue.

The gang has put a halt to offshore wind turbine development until the “science” has been improved.

Excuse me, but isn’t the “science” or lack thereof also the problem with turbines on land? Questions vary from potential health risks to efficiency, with no answers coming from Queen’s Park.

Moving away from solar and wind there was the cancellation of a planned gas-fired power plant for the Oakville area. It died because of opposition — apparently folks in that area would rather have rural lives disrupted to quench their thirst for power. Now nobody has a clear idea how much the cancellation of contracts associated with that plant might cost us.

Oh yes, and while all this is going on we are selling our excess power at deep discounts, in other words losses for the taxpayers of the province.

Besides being unable to shoot straight, the Dalton Gang seems unable to shoot smart on a variety of other issues from education to health, from taxation to economic recovery.

All of it would be really funny if it weren’t so pathetically sad.

14 thoughts on “Green energy comedy not that funny

  1. ‘The gang has put a halt to offshore wind turbine development until the “science” has been improved.

    Excuse me, but isn’t the “science” or lack thereof also the problem with turbines on land? Questions vary from potential health risks to efficiency, with no answers coming from Queen’s Park.’

    Thank you Jim Merriam for echoing what we have been saying all along–“Show Us the Science”!

  2. While Dalton fumbles through his trial and error style leadership, he is leaving families in this province suffering or displaced by his ridiculous plans, or lack of. He turns a deaf ear, and fumbles onto the next massively expensive blunder, crippling our economy and strapping all ratepayers, while leaving these families in his dust.

    He is blazing a trail of ruins through Ontario alright. Unfortunately, modern day ghost towns aren’t nearly as appealing as those of yesteryear.

  3. The mission of the Ontario Hydro system is to produce affordable electricty so that even the poor can have electricity.

    The installation of wind and solar electricity makes it impossible to fulfill this mission in Ontario due to the astronomical costs involved in the generation of electricity by wind & solar.

    On this basis alone wind and solar should be ruled out as sources of Ontario electricity for Hydro customers.

  4. This should be added as well. The mission of the Ontraio Hydro system is NOT to make wind developers rich and eco-nuts happy.The purpose is to provide electricity so that even the poor can afford electricity.

  5. Barbara said:

    “This should be added as well. The mission of the Ontraio Hydro system is NOT to make wind developers rich and eco-nuts happy.The purpose is to provide electricity so that even the poor can afford electricity.”

    Are you sure about that?

    http://www.opg.com/about/vision.asp

    It’s All About Performance

    Our focus is on the efficient production and sale of electricity while operating in a safe, open and environmentally responsible manner. For OPG, that means making positive contributions to the environment, economy and communities in which we operate.

    Operating Principles

    Performance – We have a responsibility to the people of Ontario to operate as efficiently and cost effectively as possible. We work hard to get the most out of our generating assets while continually improving our financial performance.

    Safety – OPG strives to achieve safety excellence with an ultimate goal of zero injuries. Our commitment to the safety of our people, our work environment and the world around us is paramount.

    Community – As a large company and the primary employer in many Ontario communities, OPG takes seriously its responsibility to be a good corporate citizen and neighbour. Through our Corporate Citizenship Program we make positive contributions to improving the quality of life in those communities.

    Environment – Since our inception we have been driven by the principles of sustainable development. Two-thirds of the electricity we generate produces virtually no emissions contributing to smog or global warming. We endeavor to produce power in a manner that minimizes our environmental footprint.

    *************************

    I mean, gosh, it sure does seem complicated to me…

  6. Ontario Power Generation has not failed.
    In 2003 they sold power to the grid at 4.4 cents/kWh. In 2009 it was 4.5, and 2010 will end 4.6-4.7. There’s some particularly ridiculous things about that – like the cheapest supply we procure is hydro.
    OPG subsidizes wind producers every day.

    Hydro One hadn’t been showing any restraint (far from it), but they haven’t been directed to either.

    Tom Adams has been ringing the alarm on both the costs of connecting to the grid, and of forecasting what can be provided to the grid, being shifted away from producers. A year ago he was waiving the alarm of the abandonment of consumer interest at the Ontario Energy Board. That helped a lot. In their last ruling on Hydro One rate, the ‘Board Findings’ section of the ‘GE PLAN APPROVAL’ section begins with:
    “In the Board’s view, for the purposes of its green energy plan approval role, the terms “conceptual” and “plan” are poor companions. The development of a plan, properly designated as such, involves a careful, detailed, blueprint-like process which has involved all of the necessary parties, taking into account all of the reasonably conceivable contingencies, and made provision for a small number of well researched and fully costed outcomes.”
    And concludes with:
    “Accordingly, in the circumstances of this case, the Board will not approve the overall Green Energy Plan on a conceptual, or any other basis.”
    http://www.oeb.gov.on.ca/OEB/_Documents/Decisions/dec_with%20reasons_HONI_20101223.pdf

    The public organizations moved towards having some interest in the customers and demanding some mature planning be provided for expenditures.

    Thursday’s Ministerial Directive told them not to.

  7. And then there is OPA (And IESO and OEB and MoEng. and MoEnv. and….)

    But here is OPA…

    **************

    http://www.powerauthority.on.ca/about-us/our-values

    Our Vision

    Leading Ontario in the development of North America’s most reliable, cost-effective and sustainable electricity system.
    Our Mission

    Together with our partners, we ensure that electricity needs are met for the benefit of Ontario both now and in the future. We plan and procure electricity supply from diverse resources and facilitate the measures needed to achieve ambitious conservation targets.

    Our Guiding Principles

    Transparency: We carry out our work with openness and integrity.

    * Our processes and outcomes are open and clear to both internal and external stakeholders.
    * We treat our business partners with fairness and integrity.
    * We strive to earn the trust and respect of all those with whom we deal.
    * Our communications both internally and externally are clear, candid, open and reliable.

    Accountability: We take responsibility for our actions.

    * We carry out our responsibilities fairly and with integrity.
    * We can be held accountable for our decisions.

    Collaboration: We work together toward common goals.

    * We combine our strengths to achieve our goals.
    * We use our internal and external resources as effectively and efficiently as possible.
    * We encourage and reward the contributions of everyone on the team, communicating and celebrating our successes clearly.

    Flexibility: We adapt quickly and effectively to changing circumstances.

    * We evaluate circumstances objectively and understand the need to respond to changes in our environment.
    * We are able to alter our course when and where needed.
    * We balance short-term needs with our long-term goals.

    ************************

    So, do they live up to their missions statement?

    Can you tell where OPA starts up and OPG leaves off?

    How about conflicts with all the other players not that responsibilities have been shifted and the issues clouded?

    Remember that you can’t just got to MoEnergy or Ontario Hydro, you have to figure out who to talk amongst all the various “stakeholders”, regulatory bodies, special interest groups, pressure groups and FOM’s.

    Oh sorry — just about forgot, FOM = Friends of Minister!

    Where does the problem start up and the solution leave off?

    Could all this departmentalizing have something to do with the lack of accountability and all the competing interests?

    Maybe?

    Is this why Dalton’s Last Ride may get a little bumpy? Is there a burr under the saddle?

  8. Like these the best:
    “Leading Ontario in the development of North America’s most reliable,cost-effective and sustainable electricity system” Neither wind nor solar produced electricity can fulfill any of the the quoted items.

    “Accountability: We take responsibility for our actions” It’s a good bet now that they will take resposibility.

    “Flexability: We adapt quickly and effectively to changing circumstances”
    “We are able to alter our course when and where needed”

    Now just let’s see how damn fast they can adapt to changing circumstances and alter their course of action. Or is it too late!

  9. Barbara:

    Do you figger that these guys do their job?

    *****************
    http://www.oeb.gov.on.ca/OEB/Consumers/OEB+and+You/About+the+OEB

    About the OEB

    *

    The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) regulates the province’s electricity and natural gas sectors in the public interest.
    *

    The Board envisions a viable and efficient energy sector with informed consumers, and works towards this vision through regulation that is effective, fair and transparent.
    *

    Our key regulatory functions include:

    – issuing codes, rules and guidelines for regulated entities to follow in their operations

    – licensing and oversight of market participants including generators, marketers and retailers

    – monitoring and enforcing compliance with regulations

    – approving the natural gas commodity price charged by gas distributors

    – approving and setting delivery rates for natural gas distribution and electricity distribution and transmission

    – approving facilities, including those for natural gas storage and the transmission of electricity

    – setting the price of electricity for certain consumers under the Regulated Price Plan and Time-of-Use plan

    – reviewing and setting regulatory policy; and

    – approving amalgamations, acquisitions, divestitures and mergers of regulated entities.

    *

    The OEB conducts its regulatory functions through oral and written public hearings, working groups and written consultations.
    *

    The OEB reviews and processes hundreds of applications annually, ranging from routine licensing requests to complex rate-change applications.
    *

    Based in Toronto, the OEB is an independent, self-financing Crown corporation.

    ************************

    How do they “Self Finance”? The money comes from somewhere doesn’t it? Do they “sell” their rulings?

  10. Or should we believe this version?

    **********************

    http://www.oeb.gov.on.ca/OEB/Industry/About+the+OEB/What+We+Do

    What We Do
    Our Mandate

    The Ontario Energy Board regulates the province’s electricity and natural gas sectors in the public interest. Our mandate is determined by the provincial government, and is embodied in legislation and regulations.
    Our Vision

    The Board envisions a viable and efficient energy sector with informed consumers, and works towards this vision through regulation that is effective, fair and transparent

    Electricity

    The Ontario Energy Board Act, 1998, sets out guiding objectives for the Board:

    * To protect the interests of consumers with respect to prices and the adequacy, reliability and quality of electricity service.
    * To promote economic efficiency and cost effectiveness in the generation, transmission, distribution, sale and demand management of electricity and to facilitate the maintenance of a financially viable electricity industry.

    In the electricity sector, the Board sets transmission and distribution rates, and approves the Independent Electricity System Operator’s (IESO) budget and fees. The Board also sets the rate for the Standard Supply Service for distribution utilities that supply electricity (commodity) directly to consumers. Read more about the Regulated Price Plan…

    The OEB licenses all market participants including the IESO, generators, transmitters, distributors, wholesalers and retailers. Board approval is required for the construction of electricity transmission lines longer than two kilometres. As well, the Board is responsible for approving specific business arrangements involving the regulated parts of Ontario’s electricity industry.

    The Board also monitors markets in the electricity sector and reports to the Minister of Energy on the efficiency, fairness and transparency and competitiveness of the markets as well as reporting on any abuse or potential abuse of market power. The Board may also be asked to review the IESO market rules and consider appeals of IESO orders.

    The Board does not regulate competitive services. Competitive services for electricity are all business activities other than distribution, transmission and providing Standard Supply Service.
    Natural Gas

    The Ontario Energy Board Act, 1998 sets out guiding objectives for the Board:

    * To facilitate competition in the sale of gas to users;
    * To protect the interests of consumers with respect to prices and the reliability and quality of gas service;
    * To facilitate rational expansion of transmission and distribution systems;
    * To facilitate rational development and safe operation of gas storage;
    * To facilitate opportunities for energy efficiency consistent with the policies of the Ontario government; and
    * To promote communication within the gas industry and the education of consumers.

    In the natural gas sector, the Board regulates Ontario’s natural gas utilities which are required to submit the rates they propose to charge their customers to the Board for review and approval.

    The OEB licenses all marketers who sell natural gas to residential and small commercial consumers.

    The Board is required to determine if the construction of a natural gas pipeline is in the public interest by considering need, safety, economic feasibility, community benefits, security of supply and environmental impacts. Each municipality may grant a gas utility the right to deliver gas service and use road allowances or utility easements within its borders. The specific terms and conditions of these franchise agreements between the municipality and the utility are subject to Board approval.

    As well, the Board approves geological formations that are suitable to store natural gas and determines the compensation payable to landowners when storage pools are situated on their property, if the parties cannot come to an agreement among themselves.

    Board approval is also required before a natural gas utility can sell its distribution system or amalgamate with another distributor.

    The Board does not regulate competitive services. In the gas sector these include the sale of gas (commodity), water heater rentals and repair or maintenance services. These products and services are competitive services and can be obtained from various companies.

    ******************************

    Competing versions? Really?

    Now I dunno! What do they do?

  11. David, I was speaking only of OPG, and I think there has been one large operational difference.

    When Ontario Hydro was broken up, the desire of the Harris government was to have a competitive market for electricity generation in Ontario. As I recall the directive was that nobody should have too great a share of the market, and OPG should not have above 30% in the long run (13 years later, we are the long run).

    It is, in my opinion, if not competent, by far the least incompetent, if only because it is the one most free of political meddling.

    The OPA is an invention of a different time, the first McGuinty government (with Duncan as Minister of Energy). They’ve destroyed any semblance of a competitive market for supply, with over 92% of purchases under contract (and the other 8% is mostly OPG’s unregulated hydro and thermal (coal) production.

    Do I assert there is a difference between a generator providing power at a relatively stable cost and a system planner with exponential growth rates; that has never had a system plan (IPSP) accepted 4 years after the first was due; and that primarily employs people in the fantasy realm of CDM?

    Yes.
    ——
    Here’s what they do:
    Minister directs the OPA to plan under parameters set politically (the Supply Mix Directive)
    The OPA should design a system plan that accomplishes, presumably competently, the directive (the IPSP)
    Hydro One will have responsibilities for delivery systems under that, and all need to take their plans to the regulator
    The OEB oversees them all to ensure they are doing their jobs and approves the rates

    Our biggest issue has been the government direction (which is delivered in the Minister’s directives to the OPA). My disgust Thursday was more with the abuse of process (in directing Hydro One to do anything, let alone something specifically addressed by the OEB as requiring a business plan first). If the OPA is not the planning organization, it should be abolished day one of the new regime.

    The two operational companies are OPG, which has raised your rates about 1/10th of a cent in the past 6 years, and Hydro One, which has raised them about 4 cents in the same time.
    OPG has been 40 times better – if only because they have been a pariah.

  12. OEB- “Our mandate is DETERMINED by the PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT,and is embodied in LEGISLATION and regulations”

    Determined by the provincial government is a POLITICAL MANDATE

    Embodied in LEGISLATION also has political roots as in the GEA/Green Energy Act.

    Regulations are often left to be developed by the government department that carries out the particular enacted legislation.

    However, the original mission of Ontario Hydro when founded was to provide low cost electricity so that even the poor could afford it and remains the same today despite the attemps to twist this mission into something different than the intent of original mission.

    Perhaps many Ontarians have forgotten this and it is time to remind them of why Ontario Hydo was founded.

  13. “All of it would be really funny if it weren’t so pathetically sad.”

    Or so pathetically EXPENSIVE!

    R.R.

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