Where’s the power plan? May 5, 2010

Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller raised an important question this week with his report on energy conservation: where is Ontario’s 20-year plan for meeting our electricity needs and what are the targets for renewable power and conservation?

The Ontario Power Authority’s website confidently states that the plan will “identify the conservation, generation and transmission investments needed to ensure reliable and sustainable energy.”

But the first draft of the Integrated Power System Plan, released in 2007, was sent back to the drawing board in 2008 by then energy minister George Smitherman, who wanted a greater focus on renewable energy and conservation. It has not resurfaced since then.

In the bsence of a plan, “conservation policy has been made through directives in a closed and seemingly ad hoc fashion,” reported Miller.

To be fair, circumstances have changed since 2008, including the decision to delay the purchase of new nuclear reactors and the introduction of the Green Energy Act, which has altered the ground rules for procurement of renewable power.

Still, the need remains for an overarching plan that ensures Ontario will meet the electricity demands of residents and businesses today and in the future. It is also vital that the plan be publicly debated.

Without public support for a long-term energy plan that includes new nuclear power, more green energy and measures to enhance conservation, the government remains vulnerable to the simplistic attacks of opposition parties. The New Democrats blithely argue that conservation measures will solve all our problems, and the Conservatives have jumped on the anti-wind bandwagon.

The government should release its plan, sooner rather than later. Ontarians deserve to know how the lights will be kept.