Small Hydro and Co-incidental Smells

On May 19, 2011 Northern Ontario Business announced that Xeneca Power Development Inc. was awarded 19 small (under 10 MW) hydro-electric projects under the Ontario Power Authority’s (OPA) Feed-in Tariff (FIT) program. Under the FIT program for small hydro projects Xeneca were guaranteed 13.1 cents per kWh for any power delivered to the grid. Small hydro-electric power is clean, its variable; meaning it can be used for peak needs or shut down (spilled water or damned) when not needed, so it is much more desirable and useful then wind or solar generation.

The article also indicated that Xeneca was in the running for an additional 14 small hydro-electric projects and that the 19 contracts awarded represented about half (72 MW) of all (small) hydro generation in the province. The spokesperson for Xeneca was Mark Holmes, VP, Corporate Affairs, who is also named as the lobbyist for the company in the Ontario Lobbyist Registry,

Reviewing the information Mr. Holmes submitted when registering as the lobbyist one notes under; “Section G.1. Government Funding”, the response to the question; “Is your client funded in whole or in part by any government?” that Xeneca declared that the “Northern Ontario Heritage Fund” provided $732,000.

One would presume those funds would go a long way to determine the feasibility of these projects providing Xeneca with a distinct advantage over any competing bidders who would perhaps be reluctant to spend the cash necessary to qualify. Why was Xeneca provided with that funding by another arm of the Provincial government when we would presume other potential developers would have interests in the attractive rates being offered by the OPA for these small projects? Was the playing field slanted to favour Xeneca and were there any competitive bids?

Looking further into Xeneca their management list includes Arnold Chan, VP, Legal Affairs. Mr. Chan prior to joining Xeneca in 2010 was aligned with the Ontario Liberal Party and served as Chief of Staff in the Ministry of Revenue under Minister Michael Chan. During Chan’s tenure as Chief of Staff, Colin Andersen was the Deputy Minister as disclosed in the Ministry of Revenue’s March 2007 Organization Structure. Mr. Andersen was on the Ontario “Sunshine List” and showed earnings of $307,729 for 2007. In September 2008 he was appointed the CEO of the OPA and his earnings for that year when reported in the Spring of 2009 had jumped to $458,153. Mr. Andersen got a 49% increase in earnings for leaving his Deputy Minister’s post to become the CEO of the OPA. The OPA was set up by Energy Minister Dwight Duncan as a “temporary” agency of the province to develop an Integrated Power System Plan (IPSP) in 2004 which we are still waiting for.

Arnold Chan, left his Provincial employment position in 2010 to join Xeneca. His prior connections with the ruling Liberal Party, in my humble opinion, may have assisted Xeneca in gaining access to that Government Funding of $732,000 from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund, and along with his indirect responsibility as the Revenue Minister’s Chief of Staff overseeing Colin Andersen may have provided some leverage in the awarding of the contracts. Mr. Chan appears to have contributed funds to the Liberal Party in 2011 as did Xeneca ($10,000) prior to the run-up for the election in October 2011. Needless to say I have personal suspicions but that is for others to pontificate about!

One of the concerns I had was related to an earlier article about the Town of Bancroft who were chasing a dream only to have the OPA haul out their rule book and deny them the right to obtain the 13.1 cents per kWh for their little 600 kWh run of river hydro-electric project placing their local town owned company in jeopardy. At present the Town’s, wholly owned subsidiary is forced to sell their hydro generation at the hourly Ontario energy price (HOEP) which has averaged 2.16 cents a kWh since the start of the current year. It seems bizarrely strange that a town owned generating unit is producing power for the Ontario grid but earns 11 cents a kWh less then a for profit company that has a former Ontario ministerial Chief of Staff on their payroll. At the same time the Town of Markham has installed 250 kilowatts of solar panels on the roof of their offices and will be paid 70.3 cents a kWh. The Province also kindly provided Markham with $2.4 million to finance the installation of those solar panels.

I am sure it is purely co-incidental that Michael Chan is the MPP for Markham-Unionville; that Xeneca obtained $732,000 from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund; that Arnold Chan wound up as the VP, Legal Affairs for Xeneca and they received those 19 contracts, and that Colin Andersen became the CEO of the OPA in September 2008 and then received a 49% year over year increase in his remuneration for that year–the year of the financial crisis!

One must assume the smell emanating from the Northern Ontario Business article must come from the dead fish caught in the turbines and not the co-incidences highlighted!

Parker Gallant,
March 27, 2012





Ahem, and you were surprised? Tsk tsk!

Tom Adams

Parker’s research following the money is extremely valuable.

One minor comment on the benefits of small hydro:

Many of the small hydro-electric units in Ontario generate a very high portion of their annual output during the spring and fall, when electricity demand and the value of electricity is low.

The same applies to some of the large hydro-electric units. OPG’s $2.6 billion Lower Mattagami redevelopment suffers from the same problem.

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