Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Ontario’s low-voltage electricity policy

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne looks over at Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli.

Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail

The first rule of political holes: If you get into one, stop digging. When it passed the 2009 Green Energy Act, Ontario's Liberal government built itself the political equivalent of a giant, supercharged auger. A half-decade later, the government still hasn't figured out how to turn the machine off. And the hole keeps getting deeper.

The act, a misguided industrial strategy masquerading as an environmental plan, has been driving up electricity prices ever since its passage. On Monday, a government that continues to search for ways out of this fiasco of its own making released its latest long-term energy plan. Electricity prices are expected to continue to climb sharply in the coming years – though less sharply than previously estimated. It's a promise to keep digging, just more slowly.

According to the latest government estimates, Ontario residential electricity rates will rise 9.6 per cent next year, 5.8 per cent in 2015 and 15 per cent in 2016. Ten years from now, the average family will be paying 50 percent more than today. All of that is well above the rate of inflation.

Story continues below advertisement

The pain would be even greater if government were not subsidizing residential electricity bills with something known as the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit – which has nothing to do with clean energy, and is not beneficial. It's a straight, $1-billion-dollar-a-year payment from taxpayers to electricity users – your right pocket is paying your left – financed through deficit spending.

The only thing Ontario has learned from the mess is that prices work. What happens when electricity prices are jacked up? People use less electricity. A few years ago, the province worried about having electricity demand outpacing supply, but demand is so depressed, that's no longer a concern. In most markets, lower demand equals lower prices. But thanks to a badly designed system, the opposite is happening in Ontario.

The government has tried to lessen the worst effects of all of this, somewhat reducing the Green Energy Act's hefty subsidies to expensive, inefficient and environmentally ineffective wind and solar power producers. The rate of electricity price increases has been slowed but it hasn't been stopped. Ontario now has among the highest prices in North America, a state of affairs that, even in the government's best-case scenario, is about to get a lot worse.

Ontario can't just tinker around the margins any more. Electricity policy is kneecapping consumers and business, and needs a complete rethink. Somebody at Queen's Park might want to find Don Drummond's phone number.

Report an error Licensing Options
Comments

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at privacy@globeandmail.com.