The Ontario Government has appointed a “Modernization Panel” to report on how to rejig Ontario’s energy regulator to deal with the fast changing realities of the energy sector.
For over 25 years Sierra Club Ontario, along with fellow members of the Green Energy Coalition, has advocated for conservation and renewables and against coal, nuclear and, more recently, against fracking gas in cases before the Ontario Energy Board (the OEB), the agency that regulates Ontario’s gas and electric utilities. The coalition has made an initial submission to the Modernization Panel highlighting numerous concerns with the OEB’s current mandate and practices. Among the suggestions we have offered:
· Creation of a conservation utility that would be free of the conflict of interest that energy supply utilities have when it comes to promoting energy efficiency and that would avoid the start and stop from political meddling characteristic of government conservation initiatives.
· Change the OEB’s mandate to make achievement of all cost-effective energy efficiency the test for regulating the sector.
· Require utility planning to support government climate change commitments.
· Require the OEB to consider all the societal benefits of energy efficiency when weighing the economics of alternatives to more supply.
· Reverse the OEB’s tendency to hold inadequate consultations rather than hearings. Instead, require the Board to hold proper public hearings that allow environmental and consumer groups to bring forward expert evidence and to effectively challenge utility positions.
· Use Carbon Cap and Trade revenues to make energy efficiency upgrades available to low income residents.
· Change the rules of ratemaking so utilities face the economic risks of building generation rather than passing along cost overruns to customers.
· Reinvigorate the OEB’s role as a check and balance on short-sighted politically expedient energy planning decisions by requiring the Board to independently analyse and report on the costs, benefits, and impacts of energy plans.
The Modernization Panel is expected to hold a second round of public consultations in the fall and deliver its report to government at year end.
To read the GEC’s submission please see attachment above.
David Poch is Counsel to the Green Energy Coalition. Sierra Club Canada’s Ontario Chapter is a founding member of the coalition. For questions or comments on the submission, please send us an email at “ontariochapter @ sierraclub.ca”.