by Sue-Ann Levy, Toronto Sun
Let’s call it the latest bit of bull left over from the Days of David Miller. For the past three years, the city has been paying as much as a 50% premium to heat and keep the lights on at City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square using green, renewable energy.
The three-year electricity contract with Bullfrog Power Inc. cost the city an extra $463,000 this year and as much as $500,000 more per year since it was first put in place in 2008, chief corporate officer Bruce Bowes told the Toronto Sun.
That’s on top of the $1 million to $1.5 million (this year) Bowes says it costs to power City Hall and the square using conventional electricity provided by Toronto Hydro, which also delivers green energy to Bullfrog customers through its grid.
The city is Toronto Hydro’s sole shareholder.
Bowes said he presented a report to the budget advisory committee in February 2008 in which he tried to “meet some of the obligations” council had directed him to pursue to power 25% of the city’s electricity needs using green sources — meaning from sources such as wind and small hydro facilities.
That report points out that the amount of available green power from new installations is “very limited” and estimates if there is enough of a supply available, it would be offered at a premium of anywhere from 40% to 100% over conventional electricity.
The report also says that the cost of purchasing 25% of the city’s electricity requirements — both for city departments and agencies, boards and commissions — would range from $9.5 million to $20.9-million extra depending on the type of green power purchased.
Tom Heintzman, president of Bullfrog Power, said green energy costs more because conventional energy is “subsidized in a number of different ways.”
It also gives consumers a choice to fund renewable projects, he told me from Charlottetown, P.E.I. where its city hall is being green-powered through the harnessing of wind.
Bullfrog has 300 business and 2,000 residential customers in the Toronto area.
Bowes says he recommended powering only City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square — plus a portion of the city’s electric vehicles and the electric ice resurfacer — with green energy to keep to the council-approved maximum expenditure of $500,000 a year.
It made sense, he says, because council was trying to showcase City Hall as an “environmentally modernized sustainable entity” — a move that also included installing a $3 million green podium roof and connecting City Hall with Enwave’s Deep Lake Water Cooling (air conditioning) system at a cost of $2 million.
Bowes said they went through a request for proposals (RFP) and Bullfrog Power was awarded the contract.
Asked if any other suppliers were providing green power, he said he didn’t know how many responded to the RFP.
“But I know at the time Bullfrog was one of the only ones around doing it,” he said of the company which has been in the green energy business since 2005.
It sure didn’t hurt that Heintzman was, shall we say, a part of Miller’s inner circle, and not just on the environmental file.
A Feb. 25, 2008 memo from Miller to council thanks Heintzman for his “interest and diligence” in being part of a Corporations Nominating Panel that recruited and recommended candidates for the Toronto Community Housing Corp. board.
I’m presuming that at least some of the board members he helped recruit were part of the mass resignation in early March.
Heintzman was also on the nominating committees for Build Toronto and Invest Toronto boards.
“It’s only been since he was mayor that we’ve reconnected,” he said when asked how long they’ve known each other.
Miller also singled out Heintzman as a “green leader” in this city in one of his final messages in the spring 2010 issue of the city publication, Our Toronto.
Bowes conceded the contract, which comes up for renewal in September, will probably be on the “chopping block” because of budget problems in 2012.
Budget chief Mike Del Grande agreed, doubting very much the contract will be renewed.
“It won’t be seeing the light of day,” he said.