As local families prepare to dig deeper to cover mounting hydro bills, the Ontario government has confirmed it plans to move forward with wind development, despite its recently announced plan to pay wind producers to stop producing energy.
The Liberal government is calling for half of the province’s energy to be generated by wind and solar operations by 2025, according to the province’s new long-term energy plan released Monday.
At the same time, the province recently rolled out a plan to allow wind producers to be paid to stop energy production in light of the province’s current surplus of power.
Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley said the scenario is another example of how the Green Energy Act is failed public policy.
“Everyone knows it but the Minister of Energy and the government,” Bradley said Tuesday. “If they wanted to reach out and show it’s a new government with a new premier, this is the one issue that, for good public policy reasons, they could retreat on and receive a lot of credit for it.”
Under the new long-term energy plan, the average monthly residential bill of $125 is expected to jump 42% to $178 within five years. But the provincial government has argued its new energy plan, including halting new nuclear construction, will help save hydro ratepayers $3,800 between 2013 and 2030.
Any time an increase is projected it’s concerning for hydro distributors, said Bluewater Power CEO Janice McMichael-Dennis.
“We work very hard to accommodate customers who are having difficulty paying their bills and that’s important to us,” she said, noting the utility has kept its 20% portion of the hydro bill stable for the last 10 years.
Every month the Inn of the Good Shepherd helps about 50 households through its rent/utility bank.
Executive director Myles Vanni expects usage will only increase with the announced hike to Ontario hydro bills.
“Whenever we see utility increases that creates more of a challenge for families,” he said. “Certainly (families’) incomes aren’t raising by that amount, whether it’s through employment, whether it’s through a disability cheque, whether it’s through Ontario Works.”
Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey said the recently unveiled energy plan is full of “harebrained schemes,” pointing to the Liberal government’s continued commitment to building wind turbines.
“The Liberal long-term energy plan does nothing for the residents of Ontario,” he said in a news release. “It puts thousands of jobs at risk by guaranteeing the cost of energy will increase at least 42% over the next five years.”
The concept of paying hydro producers to stop producing electricity isn’t an unusual situation, said Parker Gallant, of Wind Concerns Ontario. Gas plants are also paid to sit idle, in case they need to be used as backup.
The Independent Electricity System Operator “basically said, ‘We gotta be able to stop accepting this (wind) power or we’re going to have brownouts or blackouts,’” Gallant said. “What the agreement was we’ll pay the wind producers for not producing power.
“The blades will still spin, but they won’t be generating power.”
When asked why the government plans to continue wind development in light of the power surplus, Ministry of Energy spokesperson Mark Smith said Ontario’s wind farms will play an increasingly important role once nuclear units come offline for refurbishment, the phase-out of coal is completed and the Pickering Generating Station is removed from service.
“The new wind dispatch rules will provide consistency across the electricity market by integrating wind and solar generators into the system alongside hydro, nuclear and natural gas,” he said in an email.
Smith also pointed to significant ratepayer savings.
According to the Independent Electricity System Operator, ratepayers could save up to $200 million per year by moving to the dispatch system, he said.
“Investments in renewable technology, like hydro, wind and solar, have helped the province to move away from dirty coal, protect our environment and improve our health,” he added.
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