Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak has been great so far at telling Ontarians what he won’t do, or what he plans to kill. As far as what he will do, he’s pretty much a blank slate aimed at fueling taxpayer anger with misleading commentary. Sound familiar?
His latest press release makes clear that he plans to kill Ontario’s feed-in-tariff program and, associated with that, the Ontario government’s deal with Samsung to bring green jobs and green manufacturing to the province. “An Ontario PC government will integrate renewable energy into Ontario’s energy supply mix by ensuring the process is competitive and transparent and, above all, affordable to Ontario families,” Hudak says.
For one, Hudak is delusional if he thinks he can “bring relief” to hydro bills and at the same time assure a “competitive” and “transparent” market, as well as a reliable electricity system. Bringing relief entails hidden subsidies that keep Ontarians believing they can continue to get cheap electricity while overhauling and cleaning up an electricity system that has suffered years of neglect during the 1980s and 1990s. Such subsidies will come from the tax base, so he’s going to steal from Paul to pay Peter. Great strategy.
Meanwhile, is he going to stop upgrading the power and transmission system and let it deteriorate? He once talked about aggressively building nuclear plants, at least until the disaster at Fukushima. Suddenly, Hudak doesn’t talk about nuclear as much, let alone the cost of building it (which according to a California Energy Commission report (see page 20, Table 5) is much more expensive than relying on wind and other renewables). And even with an all-out nuclear strategy, that just won’t cut it. Deciding tomorow to build new nuclear plants means we still wouldn’t see that power until 2020. What do we do until then? Burn more coal? Burn more natural gas? Well, Hudak has also criticized the current buildout of natural gas plants, so I guess Hudak’s only answer is to kill the coal phaseout strategy and spend billions of dollars cleaning up half-century-old plants that, even with upgrades, will continue to spew CO2 (since scrubbers don’t capture CO2 and carbon capture and sequestration isn’t an option in Ontario).
The fact is Hudak doesn’t have a plan, has no concern for climate issues, and has abandoned many of the principles of the PC party to fuel anger and score votes. The little snippets he’s released indicate that his “alternative” approach will also come with a heavy pricetag and may be impossible, given the timelines he is constrainted by.
What Hudak talks about is likely to cost more, not less. He wants to scrap a smart meter program that’s already paid for. He wants to subject the government to potentially billions of dollars worth of lawsuits by breaking FIT contracts, at the same time making Ontario an even less attractive jurisdiction in which to do business, as investor confidence would be all but destroyed. He wants to take away green jobs and green manufacturing that is just beginning to gain momentum in the province. He wants to continue to use tax money to subsidize electricity rates. He wants to aggressively build nuclear, despite the risks, long-term buildout and rising costs.
Now, what would be a reasonable approach that still accommodates voter concerns? Continue nuclear refurbishment projects, which would keep the nuclear industry busy and folks working, but scrap plans for any new builds. Keep but rework the FIT program by limiting the size of projects, adjusting FIT rates lower (as originally envisioned under the program) and requiring that big projects (say, 10 megawatts or higher for wind, 1 megawatt or higher for solar) bid under a competitive process. Also, we should provide guidance to the market by setting a target for how much large wind, solar and other renewables we want on the system by a given date. Beef up the commitment to electricity conservation. And finally, follow through on programs that provide assistance to folks on low or fixed incomes, so they can better cope with what is a global transition to higher energy prices. The Liberals have failed miserably on this front and they’re suffering for it as a result.
Hudak is doing nobody any favours by misleading voters. Sure, some of his criticisms of the existing Liberal plan are fair and changes are necessary. But from what I’ve heard, Hudak’s alternative approach is no better from a cost perspective and certainly much dirtier.