Wynne government reveals unintelligent carbon pricing

The press release begins:

To build on the work already underway to fight the effects of climate change, Ontario is laying a foundation to join the biggest carbon market in North America by introducing new legislation today that, if passed, would ensure that proceeds from the province’s cap and trade system are transparently reinvested into green projects and actions that will reduce greenhouse gas pollution.

There’s no shortage of people railing against any tax, but I’m not vehemently opposed to a carbon tax/price. Stéphane Dion launched his appeal for his Green Shift policy during 2008’s election campaign with:

The Liberal Green Shift plan is as powerful as it is simple: We will cut taxes on those things we all want more of such as income, investment and innovation. And we will shift those taxes to what we all want less of: pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and waste. 

I wasn’t opposed to that – I didn’t know it would accomplish much of anything, but a carbon tax instead of a payroll tax, or a beer tax, is not something I would get too worked up about. However, I have written on two objections to a carbon tax: the inability to price externalities, and the funding of thoughtless spending with revenues.

In stating,  “proceeds from the province’s cap and trade system are transparently reinvested into green projects ,” the Wynne government loses my confidence in their scheme.Read More »

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Sousa Debt and the DRC

Ontario’s finance minister, Charles Sousa, delivered a budget yesterday, and within that document described the current electricity sector debt situation:

Ontario Electricity Financial Corporation (OEFC) estimated results for 2015–16 show an estimated excess of revenue over expense of more than $3 billion, which would reduce OEFC’s unfunded liability (or “stranded debt of the electricity sector”) from $8.2 billion as of March 31, 2015, to below $5 billion as of March 31, 2016. This would be the twelfth consecutive year of stranded debt reduction.

For those that haven’t been following the Wynne government’s raid of electricity assets, a quick refresher is in order.

Ancient history: Ontario broke up it’s “power at cost” utility in 1998, revaluing assets and creating a “stranded debt” along with a corporation to oversee them with tools developed specifically to address the RSD. These tools included payments in lieu of taxes (PIL) from the electricity sector, the profits of the successor companies, and prospective revenues from the sale of those companies. All of those tools were not expected to address the stranded debt – the portion they could not address was called the residual stranded debt (RSD), and it was to be paid off with a debt retirement charge of 0.7 cents/kilowatt-hour on all Ontario bills. (see Stranded Debt – Abandoned Responsibility)

Recent History:

  1. Wynne listens to Bay Street advisors on selling off the public utility, without regard to the law’s stipulation, “All proceeds… in respect of the disposition of any securities or debt obligations of, or any other interest in, Hydro One Inc… shall be paid to the Financial Corporation [OEFC]
  2. The government decides to proceed with that asset sale, promising in last year’s budget, “to sell off a 60 per cent stake in Hydro One to raise $4 billion, which will then be spent on building public transit.”
  3. The government rewrites the electricity act and Finance Minister Sousa layers nonsense upon nonsense to hide the obvious – that he is raiding hydro (summarized in Wynne deserves no credit for dumbly selling Hydro One)
  4. The province’s new financial accountability officer shows the province could be worse off for disposing of shares in Hydro one – I write that if the officer had used the most recent figures, he’d not show a remaining “residual stranded debt”
  5. The government’s bill 144 eliminates the concept of a “Residual Stranded Debt” to allow it to continue to charge business 0.7 cents per kilowatt-hour, and the Minister of Finance is freed of the bothersome need to justify the charge (described here)
  6. The government’s fall financial statement advises the government will renege on amounts due to the OEFC (sector profits since 2005) – while claiming proceeds from the disposition of the public utility are used to pay down sector debt, it is deceitfully removing sector assets

Read More »

Ontario’s solar failure

Ontario’s IESO, nominally responsible for the operation of Ontario’s electricity system, reported for the 3rd quarter of 2015 there were 2,006.2 MW (megawatts) of contracted “Solar” capacity in commercial operation.

The American Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that, as of November 2015:

The United States has slightly more than 20,000 megawatts (MW) of solar generating capacity, which includes utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal installations, as well as distributed generation solar PV systems, also known as rooftop solar.

Only California clearly has more installed Solar than Ontario, with second place Arizona about equal (2,103 MW) and New Jersey a very distant fourth (U.S. third).

Ontario’s solar is contracted much differently than American solar. While the majority of American supply is shown by the EIA as “utility-scale capacity”, the IESO’s 2015-Q3 report showed only 12% (240MW) as “connected directly to the IESO-administered transmission grid (Tx).”

chart2

Very few Ontario residents would know about the comparatively large amount of solar in the province because the IESO’s poor reporting is amplified by the province’s media. The IESO reported only 0.25 TWh (million megawatt-hours) from solar in summarizing 2015’s generation, which ignored the 88% of contracted supply not connected to the transmission grid they administer – but which they did contract. The Toronto Star amplified the information as an error, beginning a “Q & A for Ontario’s hydro system” by misinforming readers that the “less than 1 per cent” (sic) referenced the share of Ontario’s electricity.

It did not.Read More »

Better Guardians needed for Ontario’s Electricity Sector

Retired Toronto Hydro employees called on agencies mandated to protect the public interest to investigate malpractice at Toronto Hydro only to be stonewalled.

Tom Adams’ Ontario Electricity Regulation Crisis Report Part 125 Guest Post: Stonewalled by Guardians demands reading – it’s about Toronto Hydro, but I fear its applicable to most things connected with Toronto.

My interests may be peaked as the guest post is co-written by Paul Kahnert. Adams writes:

On a personal note, some readers might recall that I had a long history as an advocate for the break-up and privatization of Ontario Hydro. The most articulate and energetic advocate for public power on the other side of that debate was Paul Kahnert, then a union activist with CUPE Local 1 and a Toronto Hydro employee. My adversarial engagement against Mr. Kahnert arose from his role as the spokesperson for the Ontario Electricity Coalition whose provincial campaign and court case stopped the sale of Hydro One in April of 2002.

Jump forward to 2015.

As I came to realize that Fiona Crean, then the City Ombudsman (now the Hydro One Ombudsman), was stonewalling my request for an investigation of the Union Street blackout and other major events of operational failure due to Toronto Hydro’s negligence after Crean lead me on, I also learned that Mr. Kahnert was spearheading a similar initiative. If you compare the timing of the Kahnert/Grant initiatives with my posts 122, 123 and 124 of this series, you will see that I was, in fact, following in their footsteps. Although we were familiar to each other previously, it wasn’t until this event that Mr. Kahnert and I realized that we were in many ways kindred spirits, sharing many objectives for an electricity future Toronto can be proud of. As we have become friends, Mr. Kahnert never tires of reminding me that consumers were far better off before the break-up of Ontario Hydro than they are now. He’s right.

This is how adults should act. They exchange ideas and communicate with respect. I do not know Paul Kahnert, but I came into communication with Tom Adams arguing pro-nuclear positions, and I’m very grateful I did.Read More »