Ontario Auditor General Jim McCarter’s 33-page assessment of Premier Dalton McGuinty’s renewable energy initiatives, released last week as part of his annual report, is an infuriating read. Despite its low-key language, it describes a government that blundered into green energy generation without knowing what it was doing and made hugely expensive mistakes that will cost Ontarians billions of dollars for decades to come.
A government that failed to do the necessary preparation, business planning and internal auditing in order to understand the cost implications of renewable energy in general, and specifically what it was getting into with its massive (and untendered) deal for wind and solar power from Korea’s Samsung corporation.
A government that gutted normal review and regulatory processes in favour of arbitrary decision-making by the energy minister, often without consulting even the cabinet.
McCarter’s findings confirm the 50,000 new jobs over three years McGuinty promised via his 2009 Green Energy Act are a mirage.
He estimates 30,000 will last no more than three years and that given the experience of other jurisdictions world-wide, higher electricity prices and related downsizing caused by green energy initiatives will kill far more jobs than the legislation creates.
Each “green” job will cost the public up to several hundred thousand dollars in subsidies.
McCarter writes while the government originally claimed its renewable energy initiatives would add 1% a year to electricity bills, it now acknowledges an estimated 56% of an annual 7.9% increase in residential hydro bills over the next five years, will be due to spending on green energy.
He notes the Liberals’ “Feed-in Tariff” (FIT) program, offering renewable energy producers huge subsidies for 20 years, will add billions of dollars to the rates consumers pay for electricity, while the government ignored or was slow to implement savings suggested by its own agencies that could have reduced costs.
Because the Liberals are adding renewable energy at a time when Ontario has an energy surplus, McCarter estimates hydro consumers may have to pay renewable energy producers up to $225 million a year not to generate electricity.
In response to McCarter’s findings, the government argues it was determined to move quickly into renewable energy in order to replace Ontario’s reliance on polluting, coal-fired electricity generation (which McGuinty promised in 2003 to eliminate by 2007, now pushed back to 2014).
Beyond McCarter’s findings, the irony is given Ontario’s energy surplus — largely because our economy has been struggling for years — the Liberals could have crafted a coal-emission reduction plan using nuclear and natural gas-fired electricity generation, power it’s going to need anyway to back up wind and solar, since both are produced only intermittently.
The opposition parties — who control a majority of seats in the Legislature — must rein in the McGuinty government’s recklessness on this file.
Before it spends us into the poor house.