Ontario’s cancellation of $3.8 billion in additional renewable energy projects could have been avoided if government heeded the advice of engineers

On September 27, Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault announced the province is cancelling the second round of its Large Energy Procurement process, halting over 1,000 MW of proposed solar, wind, and hydroelectric projects. Although this decision will save upwards of $3.8 billion in future electricity costs, the circumstances requiring this decision are unfortunate and could have been avoided.

In 2012, the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE) identified risks to Ontario’s power mix and called on the government to scale back its plans to rapidly expand renewable energy generation. In OSPE’s report, Wind and the Electrical Grid – Mitigating the Rise in Electricity Rates and Greenhouse Gas Emissions, the Society recommended that Ontario foster a slower growing, more sustainable and affordable renewable energy sector by scaling back capacity commitments through the issuance of fewer contracts. OSPE correctly predicted that the rapid build-out of renewable generation in an already clean power system would result in several problems:

  • Rapid increase in electricity rates for consumers – resulting in negative impacts for businesses
  • Significant curtailment (i.e. waste) of clean generation to neighbouring jurisdictions
  • Future corrections to this trend would result in the creation of a boom-and-bust cycle for the renewable energy sector

OSPE is the voice of Ontario’s engineering profession and recognizes the economic and ecological importance of encouraging renewable, clean energy; both for our membership and the province as a whole. What OSPE does not support are policies that make renewables unsustainable — such as the expansion of any program, however lucrative, that begins to run against the public interest and ultimately harms engineering sectors.

In the coming weeks, Minister Thibeault will meet with energy stakeholders to develop a new Long-Term Energy Plan, which will include more green initiatives and is scheduled to be released in 2017. He noted that the decision to suspend the clean energy procurements is “not one [the government takes] lightly.”

“It’s an unfortunate state of affairs,” said OSPE President, Michael Monette, P.Eng. “Retrenching the approach to renewables could have altogether been avoided if government had valued the advice of engineers. Looking at the bigger picture: whether it’s energy, the environment, infrastructure investments, or other portfolios, Ontario must make some critically important and lasting decisions in the coming months. Situations like this highlight the clear and urgent need for government to consult with engineers across all of these policy areas and involve OSPE in the planning phases before it’s too late.”

Today, OSPE continues its strong advocacy work on the energy file, advising the government to make better use of the existing surplus renewable and low carbon emission nuclear generation to displace fossil fuels in other sectors at an affordable cost.

For more information, see the Society’s March 2016 report, Ontario’s Energy Dilemma – Reducing Emissions at an Affordable Cost.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Peter Rapin, P Eng

    “told you so” doesn’t help much. We need to determine why OSPE has limited influence and try and fix that. The “why” is because the government, and public at large, has lost respect for the Engineering Profession. The “how the fix” is a bit more complicated – but is OPSE’s main reason for existence.

    1. STAFF

      Hi Peter, thanks for your comment. You are absolutely correct – it is OSPE’s priority to evaluate why engineers have been forgotten when it comes to matters of public policy and decision-making. OSPE’s recent blog post, “The OSPE Manifesto: Why Engineers Must Help Shape Public Policy”, illustrates some of the Society’s recent observations on engineers’ current involvement in the public sphere, and reiterates that OSPE’s voice and successes as an advocacy body are only as strong and credible as our membership base is diverse and engaged. OSPE strives to change the current discourse, helping engineers shift from a position of “service” to one of “leadership”. The blog post in question was simply intended to remind readers that OSPE’s members and task forces have valuable research and knowledge to offer.

      OSPE is working to remind government that it needs to appreciate and consult with engineers before critical decisions are made. Part of doing so means spreading general awareness about engineers’ expertise in functions like planning, systems integration, and total life-cycle costing, each of which are paramount to the success of modern public policy. OSPE’s recent #AnEngineerWasHere public awareness campaign, is only one example of the innovative ways that OSPE will continue to educate the government, media and public about what it means to be an engineer in Ontario, and the critical role that engineers play in the day-to-day functioning of our society.

  2. Jaremko Nogotta

    Amen! Way to go OSPE!

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