...for Ontario taxpayers. Terence Corocran on Dalton's green energy boondoggles.
The Auditor-General leaves little to the imagination in his incisive dissection of the government’s top-down, to-hell-with-economics power trip. Even the Cabinet appears to be an after-thought.
The idea was simple within the tight control centre run by the Premier and former Energy Minister George Smitherman. Renewable energy would create jobs in Ontario and reduce carbon emissions and, possibly, offset closing coal plants. None of these alleged objectives were ever examined. The government appears to have depended almost totally on the input of industry “stakeholders.”
The coal plants will close, but the lost power will be replaced by gas and nuclear, not renewables. Billions of dollars were committed to renewable energy, writes the Auditor-General, “without fully evaluating the impact, the trade-offs and the alternatives through comprehensive business-case analysis.” Regulators were ignored, no objective studies were considered or investigations conducted.
In a pointed note at the beginning of comments on renewables, the AG highlights the wilful neglect that continues to dominate electricity policy. “We did not rely on the Ministry [of Energy]’s internal audit service team to reduce the extent of our audit work because it had not recently conducted any audit on renewable energy initiatives.”
On job creation, the AG concludes that claims of 50,000 green jobs are inaccurate, because most will be short-term. It notes studies in other countries showing more jobs lost from expensive green-energy initiatives, the jobs killed by higher electricity prices paid by residential, commercial and industrial users.
The province’s deal with Samsung and a consortium of Korean companies, a political controversy since it was announced, resurfaces. The report merely deepens the controversy. As told by the auditor, Korean companies approached the government in June 2008, the same month Mr. Smitherman was appointed Minister of Energy. By December of that year, a memorandum was signed. Mr. Smitherman travelled to Korea in June 2009. Six months later, a $7-billion investment deal was signed to build renewable power plants, equipment-supply plants and extend transmission grid capacity. “Neither the OEB [Ontario Energy Board] nor the OPA [Ontario Power Authority] was consulted about the agreement.”