Ford’s first order of business, announced July 3, was to revoke the regulations that enabled Cap & Trade as part of the continental Western Climate Initiative.
With the loss of these funds, a number of associated programs were also terminated – most notably the GreenON Fund, and with it the proposed subsidies on solar panels and storage – but also EV Incentive programs and the Ontario Municipal Commuter Cycling Program.
The GreenON Fund gave the unofficial heads up even before Ford took office, changing its website to announce its own demise. California and Quebec also pre-emptively closed trading with Ontario, to protect the market from the dumping of some $2.8 billion in carbon allowances.
Ford also pressed Hydro One’s CEO Mayo Schmidt, the so-called $6-million man, to take early retirement – with the entire board resigning as well, seemingly under threat of having their contracts torn up. While Ford announced that Schmidt was leaving with only $400k payment, the price tag looks set to be closer to $9 million, mostly via stock options.
The board members are set to receive another $4.9 million.
More directly affecting the solar sector, on July 13 the newly named Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, led by Greg Rickford, announced the cancellation of 758 new energy contracts on “projects that had not reached certain milestones” (see the list of cancellations here). These were either Large Renewable Procurement (LRP) projects that had missed certain milestones, or FIT contracts that had not yet reached NTP, many of which were held by municipalities, indigenous communities, and co-operatives.
The government claims there will be a net saving to the rate base of $790 million, but Rickford was unwilling to provide details.
Green MP Mike Schreiner was dubious: “Is that over a year? Is that over 10 years? Is that over 20 years? They haven’t been very clear on that.”
Rickford also confirmed the government’s intent to introduce legislation to “protect hydro consumers from any costs incurred from the cancellation”. Such measures have appeared with Bill 2, the Urgent Priorities Act, which includes the White Pines Wind Project Termination Act and clauses to protect the government from lawsuits.
Legislation to formally end the “Cap & Trade Carbon Tax Era” in Ontario (Bill 4) was then introduced on July 25, and promises a plan to compensate “eligible participants”, along with “measures to help replace the cap-and-trade carbon tax with a better plan for achieving real environmental goals.”
The government claims the move will save the average household around $260 per year. Bill 4, like Bill 2, contains a clause to insulate the government from lawsuits – which business leaders say “sends a bad message” to investors, and suggests that Ontario is not a safe place to do business.
A gathering of industry minds took place at a July 25 panel and webinar hosted by Co-Power.
Beyond some commiseration, updates, and some measured optimism, what the discussion really highlighted was just how much the sector’s future depends on what we don’t know: Ford’s next steps, and the outcome of the brewing battle with the Federal government over carbon pricing.
Ford has started off as promised on the campaign trail and torn down some key elements of the Liberal legacy in clean energy, which will surely win approval from his supporters and some industry sectors. But now the hard work begins, of taking forward steps on the energy file in an era of global transition.