Change your approach to energy planning, Ontario: energy specialist lawyer
George Vegh who is the head of the energy regulatory sector practice at law firm McCarthy Tetrault, has published a paper titled Energy Planning: the case for a less prescriptive approach.
Elegantly written, the paper is nevertheless as rebuke of Ontario’s energy policy and, in advice reminiscent of University of Toronto law and economic professor Michael Trebilcock, Vegh pretty much says Ontario has gotten everything wrong. He is hoping, he says, that the new Long Term Energy Plan, soon to be released, has some “fairly dramatic potential course corrections, particularly with respect to the role of renewable power, new nuclear facilities and conservation.”
Trebilcock’s refrain is that governments should never be picking winners in technology as Ontario did with its power sector; Vegh says “although dictating specific supply mixes may have been necessary to get through the coal phase-out transition starting in 2005, the completion of that transition, and the dramatic changes to the technological, social and economic climate for energy projects since that time, have made that approach unnecessary and unproductive.”
“It was once thought that siting gas-fired generation plants was easy and that environmentalists would support the wind facilities required to ‘green’ the electricity grid. If those assumptions were ever true, they are clearly not true today.”
Vegh goes on to say that “making resource decisions based on long-term demand forecasts is a high-risk activity.”
A less prescriptive approach, Vegh says, is the answer, and he encourages Ontario’s apparent and new openness to allowing imported power. “For some reason, Ontario has, until now, insisted upon electricity self-sufficiency.” [Editor’s note: Liberal MPP Yasir Naqvi, speaking to TVO’s Steve Paikin on a show based in Ottawa, with the Ottawa River and Quebec in the background, suggested that Quebec was unstable politically and Ontario didn’t want to buy power from that province!]
Addressing wind power specifically, Vegh said “..commercial developments will follow their own path without regard to societal costs. For example, in the 2007 IPSP [Integrated Power System Plan], the OPA [Ontario Power Authority] recommended the development of at least eight transmission lines to ‘enable’ renewable power. This was based on identifying optimal locations for wind facilities by reference to the societal costs of wind development. However, wind developers have chosen wind sites that bore virtually no relation to the sites that the OPA models thought were optimal.”
So, get real, Ontario Vegh seems to say, and lay off the heavy-handed supply planning.