Bulletins

The Ontario Clean Air Alliance sends out email bulletins on air quality and energy issues two to three times a month. Read our latest bulletins below or browse the archive.  You can also add your own thoughts on the issues raised in our bulletins by clicking the "Add Comment" link below each posting. 

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Sunshine needed amidst potential conflict of interest

Sunshine needed amidst potential conflict of interest
 
A full public review of the huge deal being negotiated between the Ontario government and Bruce Power is critical given a large potential conflict of interest for those helping to shape the government’s negotiating position and responsible for power-system planning.
 
Two unions representing workers at the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) also have significant investments in Bruce Power, holding a total of 7% of the equity in the more than billion dollar private company. This arrangement puts IESO staff in the uncomfortable position of supporting negotiations with a company whose success or failure could have a significant impact on their union’s bottom line. The investments held by the Power Workers Union and the Society of Energy Professionals are not pension plan investments – they are direct investments of union funds in Bruce Power, creating a powerful link between the company’s profitability and the two unions’ financial positions.
 
Given the recent serious conflict of interest concerns raised at one of the newly merged IESO’s predecessors, the Ontario Power Authority, the government needs to take this potential conflict very seriously. And that means bringing these backroom negotiations out into the light of day by ordering a full review of any draft deal by the Ontario Energy Board (OEB).
 
An OEB review can ensure that any deal reached with Bruce truly is in the best interests of all Ontarians and that it represents good value for money. It is also our best chance for an unbiased comparison of any Bruce Power deal to other options, including lower cost electricity imports from Quebec.
 
Premier Wynne has stated that “We want to be the most open and transparent government in the country.” Only a full public OEB review of any Bruce deal can meet that standard.
 
Please send a letter to Premier Wynne here calling for a transparent review of any proposed Bruce deal, especially in light of a potential conflict of interest.
 
Thank you.
Sincerely,
Angela Bischoff

Ontario Energy Board Grinches out on energy conservation

Ontario Energy Board Grinches out on energy conservation

Just before Christmas, the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) quietly undermined one of the most important climate change initiatives in Ontario by putting arbitrary limits on programs designed to help us use natural gas more efficiently. 
 
It’s never good news when a regulatory decision is slipped out three days before Christmas and this was the case with the OEB’s Grinch-like announcement that it was capping spending by utilities on gas conservation programs, eliminating incentives for large industrial conservation programs, and severing the profit link that has driven highly effective gas conservation programs in Ontario.
 
The OEB’s outdated rationale that not all customers directly benefit from conservation programs looks pretty silly in an age of unchecked climate change, huge damage costs from wild weather, and rising consumer expenses.  Natural gas use is, next to transportation, the single biggest contributor to climate change in Ontario.  It is in all of our interests to reduce emissions by using gas as efficiently as possible.
 
The new utility conservation program budgets approved by the OEB, however, total less than half of what is currently allocated for electricity conservation in Ontario despite the fact that our natural gas consumption is almost double our electricity consumption.
 
Eliminating incentives for large industrial and commercial efficiency efforts, meanwhile, will likely put a huge dent in the enormous savings generated by some of the most cost-effective efficiency programs anywhere in North America.  Union Gas, for example, calculates that for every dollar it spends on these programs, its customers save $54.  Eliminating incentives will reduce the appeal of longer-term efficiency investments and the jobs linked to energy efficiency products and services.
 
And by removing the link between increased energy savings and increased profits for utilities, the OEB has again taken us backward to a time when utilities had no incentive to innovate or go beyond basic measures. 
 
The OEB’s backward thinking on gas conservation flies in the face of the Ontario Government’s smart and sensible Conservation First policy.  Instead, the OEB has fixated on short-term price impacts while ignoring much, much larger long-term costs.  It is time for Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli to step in and remind the OEB that we have a climate crisis on our hands, that deep energy efficiency is good for our economy, and that every dollar we spend on natural gas flows straight out of Ontario. 
 
Please contact Energy Minister Chiarelli and ask him to direct the OEB to:
  1. Allow Enbridge and Union Gas to increase their energy conservation budgets to  as much as $200 million per year each by 2020;
  2. Allow Enbridge and Union to provide financial incentives to their large volume industrial customers to encourage them to increase their energy productivity; and
  3. Make the promotion of energy conservation the most profitable course of action for these gas utilities.
 
Thank you,
 
Angela Bischoff
Outreach Director
 
P.S.  Better integrating Ontario and Quebec’s energy systems is another great way to improve our efficiency.  This Friday, York University will be hosting a discussion of the climate and cost benefits of closer electricity integration between the two provinces featuring a number of experts, including Globe and Mail columnist Jeffery Simpson (author of Hot Air: Meeting Canada’s Climate Change Challenge), Steven Guilbeault, Senior Director, Equiterre, Normand Mousseau, Professor,Université de Montréal and Co-President, Quebec Commission on Energy Issues, and Pierre-Oliver Pineau, Chair in Energy Sector Management, HEC Montreal.  To register for this free event, click here.

An important week for our climate, but together we can do more

This week, world leaders are once again sitting down together in Lima, Peru to talk climate. These giant talk-fests haven’t proven to be terribly effective in addressing our climate crisis, but this meeting may be the most important yet in simply recognizing that we can’t continue to delay – we have to act now to rein in runaway climate change.

Here in Ontario, we have taken a hugely important step forward by eliminating coal-fired electricity. The Ontario Clean Air Alliance led the fight to end dirty coal burning and we are immensely proud of this accomplishment.

Now we have a provincial government that is indicating that it serious about building on the climate benefits of the coal phase out. Ontario joined Quebec, California and British Columbia in announcing its intention to take strong action on climate change, including putting a price on carbon, at the Lima meeting this week.

The challenge is to build a leading low-carbon economy that drives growth in good green jobs and increases the competitiveness of our businesses while reducing our climate pollution. Again, Ontario has made some important commitments on paper: putting Conservation First to improve our energy efficiency, and continuing to expand renewable power.

But the devil is often in the details. For example, our research exposed the province’s lopsided spending on new nuclear plants compared to its spending on conservation and efficiency – that's the kind of important information that the Ontario Clean Air Alliance’s research arm brings to light.

Indeed, our research is helping to frame the discussion on climate action in Ontario. Our documentation of the many benefits of increasing imports of clean, renewable power from Quebec instead of getting sidetracked with costly, high-risk nuclear projects, has struck a chord with Ontarians.

Our research has an extraordinary impact on decision makers because of our highly credible, fact-based focus on making life better for Ontarians.

We’re reaching out today to ask you to support us in building the vision of the Ontario we all want – a province where clean, renewable energy is used as efficiently as possible. With our research we are countering lots of misinformation and outright myths to tell the real story behind Ontario’s energy choices. And we are pointing the way forward with compelling information on the cost savings and health and climate benefits of a low-carbon, high-efficiency approach to meeting our energy needs.

The OCAA has proven time and again that despite modest resources, we can achieve big outcomes. And that’s important, because our world today is facing the biggest challenge we have ever seen in the form of a rapidly unraveling climate system.

We need your support to help us continue to build the case for clean energy leadership in Ontario. Please donate to support our highly respected research today!

Thank you. And blessings of the season.

- Angela Bischoff

9 good reasons why we need a public review of a Bruce Nuclear deal

 

9 good reasons why we need a public review of a Bruce Nuclear deal

The Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) and Bruce Power are secretly negotiating a multi-billion dollar deal to rebuild four aging reactors at the Bruce B Nuclear Station. Here are 9 good reasons why Premier Kathleen Wynne should send any agreement to the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) for a full public review:

1.

The Bruce B contract would be the largest private sector contract ever signed by an Ontario government, worth $60-$111 billion that householders and businesses would pay. Is Bruce B the cheapest available power?

2.

Electricity demand in Ontario is falling. Since 2005 Ontario’s total annual electricity demand has fallen by 10%, despite the fact that our GDP has grown by 8.5%, and it appears likely that our electricity demand will continue to fall as our electricity productivity continues to rise. Will we need Bruce B power?

3.

Ontario has a rising supply of renewable and gas-fired generation, including the TransCanada gas-fired power plant in Napanee. Will Bruce B power be needed?

4.

Ontario already has a surplus baseload problem. Bruce Power claims its nuclear units are now capable of cutting back generation when demand falls.  But in reality the company is running its reactors full tilt, either venting the excess steam into Lake Huron or producing unneeded power and exporting it to the US at a loss. Will a Bruce B deal make these problems worse? 

5.

The cost overruns on nuclear projects have always been passed on to electricity consumers and taxpayers.  Despite government assurances that nuclear projects must minimize “commercial risk on the part of ratepayers and government”,  93% of the work on the proposed  Darlington re-build project is not subject to fixed price contracts, with the provincial treasury and ratepayers liable for inevitable cost overruns.  Will it be any different at Bruce where ratepayers have already picked up billions of dollars in cost overruns on previous projects?

6.

We can meet some or all of our electricity needs at a lower cost with additional investments in energy conservation and efficiency.  According to the government’s Conservation First policy, Ontario will pursue all cost-effective energy conservation and efficiency resources before investing in new supply.

7.

We can meet our electricity needs at a lower cost with water power imports from Quebec. The cost of upgrading transmission infrastructure to fully exploit Quebec imports would be a fraction of the cost of re-building nuclear reactors.

8.

According to the Long-Term Energy Plan, the existing Bruce B reactors will not come to the end of their lives until 2022 and beyond.  There is a very good chance that renewable energy options like wind, solar, biogas and biomass will be lower cost electricity supply options by 2022. Quebec’s existing hydro-electric storage capacity could also be used to transform wind and solar from intermittent to “firm” base-load electricity resources.  Is this the right time to commit to Bruce B power?

9.

We don’t know by how much a Bruce B contract would cause our electricity rates to rise. Surely we should know this before a deal is signed.

Please send Premier Wynne a message urging her to follow through on her commitment to run "the most open and transparent government in Canada" by sending any Bruce deal to the OEB for review.

These are important questions that the Ontario Energy Board's procedures are designed to answer -- before any contract is signed.

You can also read our open letter to Premier Wynne outlining our questions about a Bruce deal.

Please pass this message on to your friends and colleagues.

Thank you,

Angela Bischoff
Outreach Director

 

Premier Wynne ends electricity separatism

Premier Wynne ends electricity separatism

Last Friday Premier Wynne signed a breakthrough agreement with the Premier of Quebec that will end Ontario’s 100-year old policy of electricity separatism. 
 
Starting next year Ontario will provide Quebec with 500 megawatts of electricity supply in the winter when Quebec power demand peaks, while Quebec will provide Ontario with the same in the summer when air conditioning drives up our electricity usage.
 
Even more importantly, the two provinces have agreed to investigate the potential for a long-term electricity supply contract, which would allow Ontario to import water power from Quebec instead of re-building some or all of its aging nuclear reactors.  In our report released last week, we calculated that water power imports from Quebec could save Ontario consumers $14 billion over 20 years by allowing Ontario to phase-out Darlington’s aging reactors.
 
Congratulations Premier Wynne on providing Ontario with the smart and innovative leadership that we need to green our electricity system and lower our energy bills.

Bruce B Nuclear Re-Build Contract
 
Alas, there are also some indications that the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) is close to signing a contract with Bruce Power for the re-building of its Bruce B Nuclear Station. If this contract is signed it will be the largest contract with the private sector ever entered into by the Government of Ontario.  It will cost Ontario’s consumers $60 billion to $111 billion over 30 years and will ensure that we remain dependent on high-cost nuclear power until 2050 and beyond.  
 
The OPA is hoping that Premier Wynne will allow it to sign this contract before it has been reviewed by the public or the Ontario Energy Board (OEB).  This lack of transparency and accountability on a deal this enormous is simply unacceptable.  

Please contact Premier Wynne and ask her to direct the OPA to submit the proposed contract to the OEB for a full public review.  In particular, before any contract with Bruce Power is signed, the OEB must determine if we can keep our lights on at a lower cost by investing in energy conservation and efficiency and importing water power from Quebec.
 
Thank you!

Angela Bischoff  

Quebec electricity would save Ontario consumers $14 Billion

As the Ontario and Quebec provincial cabinets meet tomorrow to discuss energy, there is one natural topic of conversation: How can we better integrate our electricity systems to save a whack of cash?
 
Our neighbour in Quebec has a problem.  Their electricity is fetching lower and lower prices in export markets.  We have a need: A cost-effective source of power to replace the energy from our aging and expensive-to-rebuild nuclear reactors. 
 

The Darlington Re-Build project “carries enormous risks"

Ed Clark, Chair of the Advisory Council on Government Assets and former CEO, TD Bank
The solution is not exactly rocket science.  We strike a deal for power at a price 30% below what we’ll pay in a best-case scenario for juice from a re-built Darlington Plant.  Quebec sells us power at a price that is double what they are currently getting for the bulk of the power they sell to the U.S.  Both provinces come out ahead by about $14 billion over a 20 year contract.
 
It would cost just $500 million to put in place the transmission system upgrades needed to take full advantage of Quebec’s power here in Ontario.  That’s less than 4% of the cost of re-building Darlington (again, based on optimistic estimates of the re-build cost).  The investment would pay for itself in less than one year.
 
In the LongTerm Energy Plan released last year, the Ontario government said it will “pursue contractual arrangements for firm imports where cost effective and well matched to Ontario’s electricity needs.”  We know our needs are well matched, with Quebec electricity demand peaking in winter and Ontario’s in summer, and we know a cost-effective deal is within reach.  So we expect that Premier Wynne and Premier Couillard will be making this a top agenda item at their joint cabinet meeting.
 
Premier Wynne might also want to consider why her power agency is in secret negotiations with privately owned Bruce Power for a contract that could be worth up to $111 billion without first considering lower cost and more flexible options, like Quebec water power.  Any deal with Bruce Power should be sent to the Ontario Energy Board for review to ensure it is actually in the best interests of Ontario consumers and ratepayers. 
 
Please send Premier Wynne a message urging her to make a deal with Quebec instead of wasting billions of dollars on high-risk nuclear projects.  It is the right thing to do for both provinces.
 
And read our new report, Ontario’s Long Term Energy Plan: A One Year Review for more on how we can make more rational choices when it comes to electricity in Ontario.