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Ontario ‘Long-Term Energy’ Plan is Neither: Environment Commissioner

Ontario’s Environment Commissioner is planning its government’s most recent Long-Term Energy Plan (LTEP), released last month, as being anything but. Instead, Dianne Saxe charges, the plan is overly focused on electricity rates and the short term.

The province’s Liberal government has been beset by complaints about soaring power bills wrongly attributed to renewable energy, and by its own expensive commitment to legacy nuclear power reactors. Introducing the LTEP last month, Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault promised more options to help people reduce their electricity use, more competition among electricity suppliers, and a slower escalation in electricity bills.

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The commissioner nonetheless calls the plan “a disappointment” in a commentary on her official site. With its “overriding focus on near-term electricity rates,” she charges, the LTEP “fails to address the most pressing energy question of our time: how will we transform our energy systems (electricity, natural gas, gasoline, diesel, propane, and oil) to meet our ambitious future climate targets?”

Saxe notes that the government implemented only two of 14 specific suggestions she forwarded last year to bring the province’s energy policy into line with its climate commitments. It has taken steps to see that “regional planning puts conservation first and is effectively integrated with other levels of energy planning,” and considers a range of options, “not just natural gas,” to balance electricity supply and demand.

But Saxe points to six of her recommendations that appear nowhere in the LTEP. Leading her list: the province’s failure to “plan for an energy supply mix that enables Ontario to achieve its greenhouse gas targets.” She also faults Queen’s Park for its failure to “publicly compare costs and benefits of alternatives such as conservation and clean energy technologies” before subsidizing natural gas expansion, for not planning a hedge against potentially higher costs to refurbish Ontario’s nuclear power stations, and for not committing to minimize the environmental impact of energy infrastructure.

Also ignored were Saxe’s calls to account for “increased greenhouse gas emissions from customers choosing natural gas over electricity for cost reasons,” and, to “set conservation targets for all energy sources.”

Still other recommendations were met only partially, or kicked down the road, Saxe notes.

“Nonetheless,” she writes, “the 2017 LTEP does explore some opportunities to make Ontario’s energy systems cleaner and more efficient.” She encourages the province’s plans to boost the use of surplus electricity to produce clean natural gas, expand energy storage and smart electric vehicle charging, and bring in new pricing plans.