News from the Office of Ontario Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller
Toronto, Ontario, January 13th,. 2015 – Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner says he’s adopting a wait-and-see attitude towards the government’s Conservation First philosophy.
In releasing his 2014 Energy Conservation Progress Report “Planning to Conserve”, Gord Miller praised the shift to considering cost-effective conservation before building new generation or transmission facilities. “Conservation has long been undervalued, and last year the government made significant progress in changing that by reorienting its energy policy.”
Miller pointed to a number of positive changes in conservation policy:
- The government adopted a new Long-Term Energy Plan that put Conservation First.
- It began work on a new conservation framework for electricity utilities, and set a new goal for their reduction in consumption: 7 terawatt-hours by 2020.
- The Ontario Energy Board established a new conservation framework for natural gas distributors.
- Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator is adding in environmental benefits, like the cost of carbon, when doing its cost-benefit test to approve electricity conservation programs. The Ontario Energy Board has announced it will do the same thing for natural gas conservation programs.
“These are all good improvements and will help the government put flesh on the bones of its Conservation First philosophy,” says Miller. “But I have to point out a couple of developments that give me pause, and hold me back from an unqualified endorsement of the government’s new conservation policy.
- The vast majority of local electricity distribution utilities will miss their target for peak reduction. About half are expected to miss their target for reducing overall consumption.
- The government has eliminated all of the interim electricity conservation targets that were used to measure the progress towards meeting its overall goals.
- The Conservation First philosophy is not backed up with legal authority, as was done with previous power system plan directives.
- The government has reduced the involvement of the public in reducing peak electricity demand.
“The government has spent the last decade trying to encourage the public to adopt a “Culture of Conservation”,” says the Environmental Commissioner. “Now, with its new approach to peak demand reduction, it appears to have forgotten that effort. A recent study shows that public interest and engagement in conservation in Ontario has hit an all-time low. That should concern all of us in the long run.”
Download the Environmental Commissioner’s full Energy Conservation Progress Report for 2014, “Planning to Conserve” at eco.on.ca.
For our readers’ interest, Niagara At Large is also posting the following response to the Environmental Commissioner’s report from the province’s New Democratic Party:
Queen’s Park – Peter Tabuns, Ontario NDP Energy Critic, said that today’s report from the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario shows that by setting its conservation goals 17 years into the future with no interim targets for almost two decades, the Liberal government isn’t serious about energy conservation in the province.
“It’s like saying your New Year’s resolution is to lose 20 pounds by 2032. It’s meaningless,” said Tabuns. “If the government is serious about sticking to its conservation goals, it needs to set regular targets so the public can tell whether the government is on track right now, not 17 years from now.”
Conservation policies with regular interim targets will save Ontarians energy by reducing the need for costly new plants and infrastructure, said Tabuns. “Before we drop billions on costly nuclear refurbishments, we need a true ‘Conservation First’ energy policy in Ontario. That means regular interim conservation goals to hold the government accountable.”
Tabuns said the ECO report showed that the province’s Smart Meter system was an expensive failure, echoing similar findings by the Auditor-General of Ontario last month. Tabuns said the $2 billion spent on the Smart Meter program would have been better spent on energy retrofits and other policies to help residents save energy.
The ECO also urged the government to move ahead on carbon pricing, something that Tabuns said was long overdue. “The NDP supported legislation passed in 2009 that was supposed to get a cap-and-trade system up and running by January of 2012. Five years have passed and we are still waiting. We have fallen three years behind Quebec and California. The government needs to take climate change seriously.”
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