Saturday, 24 March 2012

If a Bill falls in the House and nobody reports it ...

.... did it really happen?

That was the case with Bill 42.  Bill 42 was a private members bill proposed by Tim Hudak, the leader of the Ontario PC's. The Bill would have killed the Feed-in Tariff program for renewable energy that has so successfully made Ontario the green energy capital of North America.  This was the PC's second run at the Green Energy Act.  The first was by Lisa Thompson and it was also defeated.

This Bill had first reading earlier in the month and second reading on March 22.  However, with little fanfair, it was decisively  defeated 49-36.  The only media coverage of the defeat was in a backwater publication called netnewsledger.  The netnewsledger is a Thunder Bay publication that offers the following opportunity:

"Our Leader’s Ledgers feature columns from our federal, provincial and municipal elected leaders. They are their opportunity to share their ideas and vision with you directly without editing."

The article appears to have been written by Vic Fedeli, the Nipissing MPP and PC Energy Critic.  

And that's it.  No other media coverage. 

And, this time, both the anti-wind websites (Ontario Wind Resistance and Wind Concerns Ontario) didn't even cover the Bill or its defeat.  Maybe they didn't want to set false expectations when they knew that there wasn't a hope that the Bill would pass.   For the Lisa Thompson bill, they filled the gallery.  This time, the Bill died quietly.

As stated earlier, this is the second private members bill regarding renewable energy in the current session.  The first was raised by Lisa Thompson about a month ago ago.  It was also trounced.  Makes you wonder why the PC's would try again.  Apparently, the anti-winders were wondering as well, otherwise they would have covered the event.

As reference, here's the background to Bill 42, as seen by CanWEA:

Ottawa, March 8, 2012 – The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) strongly opposes the
private Members Bill introduced in the Legislative Assembly yesterday by Ontario Progressive
Conservative leader and MPP Tim Hudak (Niagara West-Glanbrook). The Affordable Energy and
Restoration of Local Decision Making Act proposes to end Ontario's Feed-in Tariff (FIT) Program
which would create significant policy uncertainty and put local jobs, investments, and new
manufacturing at risk.

The proposed Act further ignores the sanctity of signed contracts by opening the door to the
possibility that such contracts can be revoked. Such actions would create significant uncertainty
among investors looking to new opportunities in Ontario and expose Ontario to the risk of paying
damages to investors who have already made good faith investments in the province.

"The FIT Program has successfully attracted investors to Ontario from around the world, facilitating
investment and job creation that has made Ontario a North American leader in renewable energy
development," said Robert Hornung, President of CanWEA. "Hundreds of much-needed jobs are
being created in places like Windsor, Tillsonburg and Niagara, and thousands more are being
created in construction and local services. A stable policy framework is critical to our ability to
continue to attract investors, create new jobs and build a world-class manufacturing capability."

Despite its successes to date, the FIT program can be strengthened and improved, according to
CanWEA. The FIT Review currently underway has received input from many stakeholders including
CanWEA on changes that would serve to make the program even more effective and we await the
results of the review.

It must be noted the FIT Program has not played any significant role in increasing electricity prices
in Ontario to date. In fact, "the cost of conservation and all the renewable subsidies in 2010
amounted to 0.4 cents of the 13 cents we paid for a kWh in our homes," states the Environmental
Commissioner of Ontario in The True Cost of Renewable Energy and Conservation.

Ontario is, however, in the midst of modernizing an aging electricity system that requires
investments to renew and build new transmission and distribution infrastructure for system reliability
and load servicing and to phase-out conventional and polluting coal-fired generation. In that
context, wind energy is cost-competitive today with most other forms of new generation, particularly
when life-cycle costs and future environmental regulations are considered.

A July 2011 Pembina study, Behind the switch: pricing Ontario electricity options, found that Ontario
consumers would see virtually no relief from high electricity prices if the province cancelled its
support for renewable energy under the Green Energy Act. In fact, the study indicates that investing
in renewable energy today is likely to save Ontario ratepayers money within the next 15 years, as
natural gas prices are forecast to start to rise. The addition of any new generation (all more
expensive than existing generation) and badly needed investments in electricity infrastructure
guarantee increased rates for consumers going forward.

"Wind energy is playing a growing role in helping Ontario build a cleaner, stronger and affordable
electricity system that will ensure Ontarians continue to enjoy the lifestyle they are accustomed to,"
said Hornung. "At the same time, investments are required to ensure the province's aging electricity
system is ready to meet the needs of a prosperous future."

Ontario's stable policy for wind energy has attracted millions of dollars in new investments and jobs
in manufacturing in areas of the province hit hard by economic challenges. According to a report by
ClearSky Advisors, Ontario is expected to install more than 5,600 MW of new, clean wind energy
capacity by 2018, creating 80,000 person-years of employment, attracting $16.4 billion of private
investments (with more than half of that invested in the province), and contributing more than $1.1
billion of revenue to municipalities and landowners in the form of taxes and lease payments over
the 20-year lifespan of the projects.

The proposed Affordable Energy and Restoration of Local Decision Making Act would give Ontario's
municipal governments authority for issuing Renewable Energy Approvals (REAs) and for applying
significant conditions on projects that go beyond environmental protection. It is unclear how this
would operate in practice as REAs are associated with many significant areas of provincial
jurisdiction and municipal governments will likely be challenged to find the resources and expertise
required to take on these responsibilities.

CanWEA believes municipalities have a vital role to play in any new local development, and has
always encouraged municipal governments to take full advantage of all opportunities for
engagement under the GEA. Municipal engagement and consultation is an important part of the
renewable energy development process. The Renewable Energy Approval (REA) requires
municipal consultation, including public consultations and CanWEA has always advocated that its
members go beyond minimum regulatory requirements. Our mandate to support the responsible
and sustainable development of wind energy is backed with the development of Best Practices for
Community Engagement and Public Consultation – which were informed through discussions with
dozens of municipal leaders.


It sounds like the PC's are pandering to the anti-wind movement.  However, they seem to have misread the mood of Ontario.  Ontario recognizes the value of green energy - especially wind energy - the lowest cost source of replacement electricity in Ontario.


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