Ontario has, again, quietly created and low-key announced a new Electrification and Energy Transition Panel.
Formed by way of a cabinet-issued order-in-council, the three-member panel will advise the government on how to move Ontario’s economy in a more climate-friendly direction.
David Collie, former president and CEO of Ontario’s Electrical Safety Authority, will chair the advisory group. He will be compensated at a rate of $1000-a-day, up to a cap of $80,000 per year. The other two appointees have yet to be named and will be paid $723-a-day, up to $57,840.
Ontario’s Minister of Energy, Todd Smith, says the panel’s objective is to “help [the] government keep rates low and enable investment, job creation and skills development in Ontario by making it easier for companies to anticipate the long-term development of Ontario’s energy sector.
According to Smith’s open letter — in which he announced the new committee — the intensifying nature of electrification, corporate sustainability commitments, and the renewable energy revolution are driving the need to develop long-term energy planning. The letter also states that electricity generation and transmission resources and infrastructure can take up to 15 years to develop, and coordinating these projects can pose a significant challenge. This panel, therefore, represents a proactive effort to support cleantech and clean energy growth across the province.
The Ontario Energy Association (OEA) quickly praised the move – which was taken from the organization’s “Energy Platform” – a document outlining a number of priorities for Ontario’s energy sector. Its President and CEO Vince Brescia said the “expert review panel … will be critically important in ensuring we find the optimal path to make sure Ontario’s energy customers have access to reliable and affordable energy as we decarbonize our economy.”
With an election looming – and polls consistently showing climate change as a key voter concern – Doug Ford’s government has attempted to soften its environmental image. Whereas the first three years of PC governance were marked by the elimination of cleantech incentive programs, EV rebates and charging stations, and Ontario’s cap and trade program – as well as litigation against the federal carbon price to the tune of $30 million – recent announcements suggest the PCs have come to terms with the inevitable renewable energy revolution.
An exclusive statement provided to pvbuzz Energy Minister Todd Smith seemed to confirm this.
“The panel will provide essential advise on how to coordinate long-term energy planning and growing energy demand supporting the adoption of emerging clean technologies and fuel switching.”
He also added that:
“In November I sent a letter to the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) asking them to develop an achievable pathway to phase out natural gas generation and move to zero emissions in the electricity system while evaluating the implementation of a moratorium on new natural gas generation in the province. The IESO will deliver that report in November 2022, informing the work of the Electrification and Energy Transition Panel.”
While it remains to be seen what the IESO will recommend – and what the PCs will ultimately move forward with, should they be reelected, this statement does stand in relative contrast to the governments’ track record.
For example, less than a year ago, in June of 2021, the province announced phase two of its Natural Gas Expansion program: $234 million to develop 8,750 new gas connections ($26,285.71 each) in Northern Ontario. As such, it’s not exactly clear how fossil gas fits into the PC’s energy vision quite yet.
The Minister’s next comment to pvbuzz seems to elude that the province is considering moving forward with a virtual net metering program, pending the results of a Kingston pilot.
“In 2021 I announced Ontario’s first Community Net Metering Project which will enable a type of virtual net-metering at Sifton Properties’ West 5 development in London. I look forward to the results of this pilot, including details on potential system benefits and impacts to ratepayers,” said Minister Smith.