Accountability and transparency needed to keep lights on in Ontario

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Yesterday’s Auditor General’s report shows that we need more transparency and accountability in the electricity sector.  Yet the report fails to place the cost of renewable energy in context of what is causing electricity prices to rise. 

Just like road repairs on old highways are needed to keep your car moving, Ontario has to spend money to repair our old grid to keep your electricity moving. We also need to replace worn out nuclear facilities and dirty coal plants. Replacing these facilities costs money whether the new power comes from renewables, nuclear, natural gas or coal.
 
Ontario has important decisions to keep the lights turned on. How can we make these decisions when, as is the case in Ontario, we don’t have the full picture to compare costs – financial, environmental and health – of all sources of power generation?
 
The Auditor General questions job creation estimates and pricing policies for renewable energy, but doesn’t mention subsidies paid to private natural gas generators and for nuclear power at Bruce Power. When the market price doesn’t meet the guaranteed price for nuclear or natural gas (which is almost all the time),  we – Ontario ratepayers – pay the difference.  We shelled out $1.35 billion in 2010 to meet gas and nuclear power purchase agreements.
 
In fact, this spring the Environment Commissioner of Ontario reported that too little renewable energy had been added to the grid to date for it to be the reason for rising electricity prices.  
 
Also missing from the Auditor General’s report was analysis on the value for money that energy efficiency and conservation provides. At a cost of 2.3 – 4.6 cents/kWh, investing in energy efficiency and conservation gives us the best bang for our buck. By comparison, the lowest amount we now pay for electricity is around 5 cents/kWh. The cost of all new sources are much higher.
 
McCarter’s report shows that we need more transparency and accountability in the electricity sector. Decisions about our energy future are too important not to have all the information we need available to us.