Cutting Through The Spin on Ontario's Electricity Prices

Transmission line

What do electricity prices have in common with the rain? Politicians don’t control either. However, hearing the Ontario Conservatives and NDPs slamming the Liberals this week for rising electricity costs and pretending they somehow have the answer, you’d hardly know it. But the fact is, Tweet: Any politician who promises low electricity rates is selling a lie — one we all end up paying for http://bit.ly/2myQ6WD #cdnpoli #onpoliany politician who promises low electricity rates is selling a lie — one that all of us end up paying for sooner or later.

Ontario’s electricity woes stem back to the late 1970s and, over the past 40 odd years, all three parties have had a hand in them. It started with the building of the Darlington nuclear station, which the Bill Davis Tories approved and the David Peterson Liberals saw through to completion — 10 years late and almost $12 billion over budget. No one could afford to pay the real cost of Darlington, so Ontarians carried that debt for the next three decades.

Over that time, electricity — like cars, and coffee, and just about everything else we buy — didn’t get cheaper, it got more expensive. And when the recession hit in 1993, and electricity prices were rising, people got angry. The party in power at that time, the NDP, did the popular thing; it froze electricity rates, halting investment in the power system.

Ontario Cancels Nearly $4 Billion in Clean Energy Projects

Originally published on The Climate Examiner.

The fingerpointing continues on the Ontario government’s decision to cancel $3.8 billion in planned wind and solar projects, as part of its struggle to keep a lid on soaring electricity prices that are being attributed to multiple factors.

The cancelled schemes could have offered up to 1000 megawatts of power under optimal weather conditions, sufficient to service the instantaneous demand of roughly a million homes.

Previously signed projects will still go ahead, including 16 wind, solar and run-of-river hydroelectric endeavours that could offer up to 455 megawatts.

Last month, the government announced an eight-per cent subsidy for residential and small-business electricity bills amid growing voter anger over price increases that have given the province one of the highest electricity costs in North America.

Unlikely Conservatives Join Fight for Ontario’s Carbon Tax

A small, conservative movement is growing in Ontario to “reset the conversation” around carbon pricing and bring the centre-right back to an originally-conservative position, one in support of a market-based approach to fighting climate change. But the movement faces an uphill battle.

It’s very ironic — the idea of carbon pricing, came more from the right than the left originally,” Mark Cameron, executive director for Canadians for Clean Prosperity, and former policy director to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, told DeSmog Canada.

There are well known conservative economists who endorsed carbon taxes for decades.”

You don’t need to feel alone, there are a number of people coming into this tent,” said Chris Ragan, chair of the Ecofiscal Commission, associate professor at McGill University and research fellow at the C.D. Howe Institute.

Those hoping for a reset will soon see how the Ontario Progressive Conservative party engages on the topic when the governing Liberals introduce a cap-and-trade plan in the near future.

Pipeline Regulator Orders High-Pressure Safety Test of Enbridge’s Line 9B

The National Energy Board (NEB) ordered high-pressure testing of a segment of Enbridge’s Line 9 pipeline before the line, a west-to-east oil pipeline, can begin operating according to a press release issued Thursday.

Before Line 9B becomes operational, hydrostatic testing results of three segments of the pipeline must be provided to and approved by the NEB,” the National Energy Board — Canada’s federal pipeline regulator — said.

Enbridge requested permission to reverse the flow of a 639-kilometre portion of the Line 9B pipeline between North Westover, Ontario and Montreal. Line 9B is part of the larger Line 9, which Enbridge hopes will carry diluted bitumen from the Alberta oilsands to Eastern Canada.

Community groups, particularly in Quebec, have long requested the high-pressure, hydrostatic test. A hydrotest or hydrostatic test is a commonly used method of determining if a pipeline can operate safely at its expected operating pressure. Recently a number of groups demanded the NEB explain why it would not order a hydrotest of Line 9.

Groups Want Pipeline Regulator to Explain Why it Won't Order Safety Test of Enbridge's Line 9

Environmental and citizen groups in Quebec are demanding the National Energy Board (NEB) explain why it refuses to order a hydrostatic safety test of Enbridge's Line 9 pipeline, a west-to-east oil pipeline that could come online as early as next month.

A hydrostatic test or hydrotest is a commonly used method to determine whether a pipeline can operate safely at its maximum operating pressure. The test involves pumping water at through the pipeline at levels higher than average operating pressures. Enbridge is reversing the flow of the 39-year old Line 9 pipeline, which previously carried imported oil inland from Canada's east coast, and will increase its capacity from 240,000 to 300,000 barrels of oil per day.

[The NEB] claims to be transparent and to listen to what the public is saying, yet despite having all the required information in their possession for over six months, it refuses to render a written and reasoned decision on whether or not it will impose hydrostatic tests on the length of Line 9B,” Lorraine Caron, spokesperson for the citizen group Citoyens au Courant, said.

When the NEB, Canada’s federal pipeline regulator, approved the Enbridge pipeline project in March 2014, the board stated it could order a hydrostatic test of Line 9 if it felt the integrity of the 39-year old pipeline was in question. So far the board has chosen not to exercise this option and has said very little as to why.

Refusing to make a decision public means the NEB wants to keep the public in a state of ignorance. This only contributes to diminishing public confidence in the NEB,” Steven Guilbeault, executive director of Equiterre, said.

Cap and Trade in Quebec and Ontario: A Primer

Cap and trade is in the new kid in town as far as carbon pricing goes in Canada. In April, just before the Premiers' Climate SummitOntario made headlines by announcing it will join Quebec’s cap and trade system, which is linked to cap and trade in California.

So just how does it work? Here's our short primer.

The system was first adopted by Quebec in 2013 (although it’s worth noting the province did impose a tax on gas and diesel fuel back in 2007).

The benefits of emissions trading, beyond ensuring the climate goal is reached in a measurable manner, is that business has flexible compliance options and ‘carrots’ — incentives for making smart, economic business decisions,” Katie Sullivan, director for North America and Climate Finance at the International Emissions Trading Association, said.

Like Alberta’s carbon levy, Quebec’s system puts a price on emissions above a certain level.

Most Canadians Support Carbon Pricing, See Climate as Election Issue: New Poll

A new poll released today by Angus Reid finds the majority of Canadians support carbon pricing programs and more than half the population would like to see a national climate policy instituted at the federal level.

Although Canadians say they’re ready for climate action, there’s a lot less certainty surrounding climate leadership at the federal level, according to poll results.

There also appears to be some question about the actual impact of a carbon price but, despite the uncertainty, 75 per cent of Canadians support the idea of a national cap and trade program, and 56 per cent support the idea of a national carbon tax.

Currently Canada has a smattering of province-led carbon price initiatives — B.C.’s celebrated carbon tax being perhaps the most notable — although no national program to reduce emissions exists.

"We Will Be the Ones to Stop This": Grand Chief Voices Impassioned Opposition to Energy East

Treaty 3 Grand Chief Warren White Energy East

I do not want to be the grand chief who consented to a pipeline that’s going to destroy 30 per cent of the fresh water in Ontario, in Treaty 3 territory,” Treaty 3 Grand Chief Warren White said in a speech outlining his objections to TransCanada’s proposed Energy East oil pipeline last week.

I did not come here for consultation. I came here to let everyone know what Energy East is all about…In unity in Treaty 3 we will be the ones to stop this. Our communities, our youth, our leadership are being called on by other nations,” White, while presenting at a public meeting hosted by the Ontario Energy Board in Kenora, Ontario, stated.

TransCanada “low balled” and “tried to pull a fast one” on Treaty 3 chiefs, according to White. The pipeline company agreed to participate in a consultation process based on Treaty 3 Resource Law or Manito Aki Inakonigaawin in Anishinaabe (Ojibwe), but failed to actually engaged in the process. TransCanada was a no-show for a meeting with Treaty 3 chiefs on December 21st last year.

I am very upset right now and you put that in your report that Energy East, TransCanada whatever you wanna call it, are there for the dollar signs, and nothing about the land, nothing about how we survive,” White said.

Ontario Backs Down From Full Assessment of Energy East's Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Jim Prentice and Kathleen Wynne

Ontario will not look at greenhouse gas emissions from the oilsands industry in deciding whether to support TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline project. The province will only consider emissions in Ontario from the proposed pipeline according to an announcement by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne on Wednesday.

Ontario’s review of the Energy East pipeline will not have credibility unless emissions in Alberta are taken into account,” Adam Scott, climate and energy program manager with Environmental Defence Canada, told DeSmog Canada.

Wynne’s announcement in Toronto comes during a visit from Alberta Premier Jim Prentice to discuss Quebec and Ontario’s seven conditions for the 1.1 million barrel-per-day proposed pipeline. Ontario and Quebec have stated in their conditions “the contribution of greenhouse gas emissions” from Energy East must be taken into account.

Alberta Premier Prentice Lobbies For Energy East in Ontario and Quebec

Jim Prentice

Alberta Premier Jim Prentice begins an Energy East lobby tour today in Quebec City to try to woo the premiers of Quebec and Ontario into supporting TransCanada's 1.1 million barrel-per-day oil pipeline proposal.

It is a sign the project is in danger,” Patrick Bonin, a Greenpeace Canada climate and energy campaigner based in Montreal, told DeSmog Canada. “Over 70 per cent of Quebecers don’t want Energy East to be built.”

Ontario and Quebec announced last month that Energy East would have to meet seven conditions to gain the provinces' approval of the 4,600-kilometer pipeline from Alberta to New Brunswick. Included in these conditions is a demand for a full environmental assessment of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the pipeline.


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