Friday, August 22, 2014

Harmful revisionist narratives emerging for Ontario's electricity policies

I noticed the first revisionist article on August 6th; Daniel Gross' How Ontario Won the War on Coal ("It didn't even need a carbon tax of cap and trade"). Most of the column was innocuous, but I found one statement to be harmfully wrong:
The dominance of a single party dedicated to a legislative goal was the precondition for Ontario to phase out coal.
Ontario did not have a "war" on coal, it had a policy on coal-fired electricity generation.

Ontario did not have only one party dedicated to the legislative goal - in fact it was a recommendation from the final report of an all party "Select committee on Alternative Fuel Sources", in June 2002, during the rule of another party, that, "...the Ontario government shall mandate the closure of all remaining coal or oil-fired generating stations by 2015."

Discarding the reality of consensus with the silly "single party" hero, and "war", narratives, is the opposite of helpful in getting coal-fired generation reduced/eliminated in other jurisdictions.

I've focused on Gross's worst, which Ken Silverstein built on weeks later in Ontario, Canada, U.S. And Africa: Energy Philosophies Are Worlds Apart
Ontario is Canada’s most populated province that encompasses the residents of Toronto and Ottawa and which epitomizes western success. Its Liberal Party says that global challenges require it to take the lead so that the next generation of economic opportunities can get underway.
Ontario became, during the decade long coal phase-out, what is called in Canada a "have-not" province. The epitome of western success in Canada is in the west, and it's driven by resource extraction (most prominently in 2 of the 3 provinces that get a significant share of their power generation from firing coal). Ontario's recovery from the recession has been slower than the rest of the country's and it's failure to control annual budget deficits is unparalleled in the country.

Economies, once reliant on coal, can now make the same economic strides using a preponderance of other, cleaner fuels — the lesson that both Obama and Ontario want to impart to Africa and its leaders.
Has Ontario's elimination of coal been exemplary?

Image from Wynne's Wicked Coal Distraction
I don't think that indicates Ontario has been very successful in exerting influence beyond its borders.

Moving away from the foreign ground to alien ground, large Canadian law firm Gowlings posted Prospects of negative governmental action in Ontario’s energy sector during August's historical fiction contest.
I don't disagree with the premise:
...if model failure is severe and persistent enough, history in Canada suggests that governments may be tempted to impose a restructuring even on these sorts of businesses.
It's the history that I again have an issue with:
In the years leading up to Ontario’s Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) program, it was generally accepted that Ontario was approaching a near-term shortage of electricity as surging demand threatened massive brownouts. Government financial models, no doubt, assumed that the cost of developing renewable energy infrastructure involving long-term power purchases at prices significantly above market could be recouped by steadily increasing electricity rates over time, all without unduly reducing customer demand.
This is not so. While the Green Energy and Green Economy Act was being written by lobbyists for Premier McGuinty and his lightly educated Minister of Energy George Smitherman, in 2008, exports were at a record high, and demand was dropping like a rock from levels well below 2005's peak. The government presented the program as a make work, demand destruction, project.

The model isn't failing.
The province may be.

I suspect lessons learned in Africa will be taught from China.

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