By Jonathan Jenkins, Sudbury Star
A deal’s a deal and ripping up a signed agreement would hobble Ontario’s burgeoning green-energy industry and make international investors nervous, Korean multinational Samsung C&T Corp. says.
“We have a binding contract with the government of Ontario, the people of Ontario, not a specific party,” Samsung manager of government relations and business development Hagen Lee said Wednesday, after Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak said he would break the deal if he’s elected premier this October.
“We’re working very hard to meet the commitments of that contract on time and in some cases we’re ahead of schedule. That’s the kind of company we are.”
Signed with much fanfare by Premier Dalton McGuinty and Samsung officials in January 2010, the deal commits Ontario to provide grid access and a subsidized price for 2,500 megawatts of wind and solar generation.
In exchange, Samsung would build the generating plants and four factories to supply components for them.
Samsung has spent “tens of millions of dollars” so far in Ontario on three of four factories and is creating hundreds of jobs, while not expecting to see a dime in revenue for some time, Lee said.
A fourth plant to build solar modules will be announced soon, he said.
Some analysts are predicting up to $65 billion in wind-related investments could be up for grabs over the next few years and Ontario is well-positioned to nail a healthy share of that money — but not if investors can’t count on the Ontario government, Lee said.
“A lot of investors are on the fence,” he said. “It makes a lot of people nervous.”
Hudak dismissed concerns his plan would frighten away investors and scoffed at the suggestion from the governing Liberals he was “killing jobs” in Ontario.
“You know what the best way is to scare away international investment?” Hudak said. “It ‘s to put hydro rates through the roof. Dalton McGuinty’s hydro rate increases are chasing jobs out of the province, they’re causing foreign investment to go to other jurisdictions and they’re making it awfully difficult for families to make ends meet.”
He repeated his view that the Samsung deal was a “ripoff ” for Ontario and was responsible for some of the increase in electricity rates recently, even though Samsung is years away from generating any power and has yet to sign a contract to do so with the Ontario Power Authority.
The argument over Samsung is part of a larger battle between the two leading contenders in the October Ontario election — with the Liberals arguing their green energy subsidies will help the province move off coal and support a new manufacturing industry in renewable energy components.
The Tories say they, too, would end coal burning in Ontario, but would end subsidies for renewable energy and replace them with a competitive market for power.