Dalson Chen, Windsor Star
The job numbers being touted by the Liberal government concerning the Samsung deal are “phoney,” says Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak — and the head of one local green technology company sees some merit to Hudak’s criticisms.
In February, Sean Moore of Unconquered Sun Solar Technologies said he agreed that the Liberal government’s green energy job creation figures are “overinflated.”
Now, Moore says the issue has become a political “lightning rod” and he doesn’t want to give the impression he’s favouring either side — but he’s not reversing his previous statement.
“I think everybody knows they’re overinflated, right? I don’t really have to reiterate that,” said Moore, founder and CEO of Unconquered Sun.
In February, Moore said that many recent announcements of new jobs in the region and across Ontario are only projections. Until the “bricks and mortar” facilities are in place, the jobs don’t actually exist.
Reached on Wednesday, Moore stood by his words. “That’s not untrue or inaccurate.”
While Moore said it’s possible the job projections “might come to fruition one day,” he believes “the numbers are a little more conservative than what people like to put out there.”
MPP Sandra Pupatello (L — Windsor West), the province’s minster of economic development and trade, said those numbers may never have the opportunity come to fruition because “Hudak is busy killing those jobs.”
“It’s infuriating that he should totally misrepresent what is happening in the green energy sector,” Pupatello said.
“(Hudak) is introducing an instability in the new green industry that is detrimental, not only just during the political campaign, but today, in our economy.”
In a speech Tuesday, Hudak dismayed many people — including local elected officials — by attacking the Liberal government’s Green Energy Act.
Hudak said the Ontario PC party would roll back the feed-in tariff (FIT) program and scrap Samsung’s “sweetheart” renewable energy deal with the province.
Hudak renewed his assault on Thursday, claiming that only eight of the 800 Samsung-related jobs the Liberals promised Sarnia have so far been realized — with one of those jobs being a security guard and another being a landscaper.
Moore said he’d be in favour of cancelling the Samsung deal.
Regarding the 700 jobs announced for Windsor via CS Wind, a junior partner of Samsung, Moore said: “You live in Windsor? You know that Samsung obviously hasn’t created 700 jobs…. I’m just saying, right now.”
Moore said that as a small manufacturer, he feels the Ontario government’s billion-dollar arrangement with Samsung creates “an unfair, tax-funded competitive advantage for Samsung.”
While Unconquered Sun is also benefiting from government programs, Moore said the Samsung deal represents “a large chunk of tax dollars going to one particular foreign multinational.
“I think the Liberals even know that was probably not one of their best moments,” Moore added.
Unconquered Sun makes photovoltaic panels — a key component of solar power technology. Moore describes his company as a prototype of who the Green Energy Act is meant to benefit.
Asked how many people Unconquered Sun currently employs, Moore is blunt: 25.
That’s a higher number of employees than when Moore was quoted in February. Unconquered Sun held a job fair in March, he said.
Earlier this week, representatives of some international green technology manufacturers with local plans warned that cancellation of the Green Energy Act would mean they have no reason to remain in Windsor.
Moore stressed that’s not the case with Unconquered Sun. “Our product is conceived, designed and produced in Windsor. We are not planning on just packing up and going away…. We’re dedicated to the community and have a commitment here.”
When the Green Energy Act was launched in 2009, the Ontario government boasted that it would create 50,000 jobs in three years.
Now the government says the legislation resulted in the creation of 13,000 jobs by the end of 2010.
Moore is positive about the growth of Ontario’s green energy industry, yet he remains skeptical about the job numbers being bandied about as the political stakes in the issue rise higher and higher.
“These are announcements. Predictions and projections and forecasts,” Moore said.
But is there truth to Hudak’s other charges against the Green Energy Act?
According to Hudak, the FIT program results in the Ontario government paying energy rates 10 times greater than the standard price — as high as 80 cents per kilowatt hour.
Asked for evidence, Hudak’s office pointed to the pricing schedules of the Independent Electricity System Operator.
A FIT price schedule provided by the IESO and dated Aug. 13, 2010, does indeed show the government offering a contract price of 80.2 cents per kilowatt hour in the category of rooftop-mounted solar panels of a size equal to or less than 10 kilowatts.
It’s the highest price of 19 categories that include water power, wind, biogas and more.
Regarding the standard price, IESO provided a schedule that shows the market rate for April at three cents per kilowatt hour, with the total cost of power including global adjustment at 6.9 cents per kilowatt hour.
As for Moore’s opinion on the FIT program, he said he disagrees with Hudak on this point. “It’s an excellent program. I do hope that it’s phased out slowly…. (But) obviously, it gives companies like ours a chance to be competitive globally,” Moore said.
“The Green Energy Act, as a whole, is good. Subsidies will be decreased over time.”
Another Hudak argument has been that the average annual household energy bill will increase by as much as $732 in four years.
Asked for evidence, Hudak’s office pointed to a report commissioned by the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters trade association.
The report was submitted to Hydro One in August 2010 to show the impact of Ontario energy policies on electricity bills.
The specific part of the report being used by Hudak is a schedule that says residential bills will see a cumulative increase of $61 per 1,000 kilowatt hours in early 2015.
Paul Clipsham, CME’s director of commercial and consumer policy, said Hudak’s office must have reached the $732 figure by assuming an average annual usage of 12,000 kilowatt hours — multiplying the schedule’s $61 figure by 12.
“There is some discussion about whether or not 12,000 kilowatt hours is really the average,” Clipsham said.
But in general terms, Clipsham agreed that Hudak’s $732 figure “does line up pretty well” with CME’s prediction on the issue, and the number is also “in the ballpark” of the Liberal government’s own forecasts.
“If you look at their long-term energy plan, I think they have slightly more modest growth projections, but it’s not too far off,” Clipsham said.
But Pupatello said those figures are in line with the current trend and is not a result of green energy.
“We know in everything we’ve calculated the same increases that we saw in the last 20 years is what we will see in the next 20 years,” Pupatello said.
“The difference is what we are doing. Instead of having coal fire generation, which we also have to pay for, we’re going to have green industries which will benefit us all in the long run.”