Financial Post: OSPE & need for engineers in development of energy policy

Glenn Thibeault, Minister of Energy announces he will suspend large renewable energy. Photo credit: Dave Abel/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network procurement

In response to the September 27 announcement that the Government of Ontario is cancelling $3.8 billion in renewable energy projects, OSPE released an official statement noting that while this decision will reduce future electricity costs, the situation could have been avoided had policymakers heeded the advice of engineers. While OSPE recognizes and values the economic and ecological importance of encouraging renewable, clean energy, OSPE does not support policies that undermine the sustainability of Ontario’s renewable energy sector.

OSPE stands firmly with our partners in this sector, calling on the government to shape more thoughtful, forward-looking renewable procurement strategies to ensure that the sector is sustainable, supported but not bloated, and that Ontario’s renewable energy stakeholders are spared from boom and bust cycles that are caused by poor government planning. OSPE’s advocacy efforts are primarily focused on educating governments about the engineering principles and expertise that need to be acknowledged and respected to integrate more renewables into the electrical grid, while maintaining a system that is resilient, cost-effective and will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

National Post columnist Terence Corcoran has since reached out to OSPE to discuss the province’s announcement, as well as a number of OSPE reports on Ontario’s energy policy, including a 2012 report in which the Society provided a number of recommendations for fostering a slower growing, more sustainable and affordable renewable energy sector.

Corcoran spoke with OSPE Subject Matter Expert Paul Acchione, P.Eng., to further discuss renewable energy. Corcoran’s September 27 opinion piece in the Financial Post, Terence Corcoran: Ontario Liberals’ huge green energy about-face shows renewables aren’t so doable after all, specifically highlights some of OSPE’s research and Acchione’s observations for responsible renewable generation:

“Experts and analysts have been warning of the excess wind and solar expansions for years. The Ontario Society of Professional Engineers’ Paul Acchione warned in 2012 that wind expansion is ‘costly’ and ‘technically difficult to integrate’ into the Ontario system.”

A second article on energy policy, Boondoggle: How Ontario’s pursuit of renewable energy broke the province’s electricity system, was released in the Financial Post today, once again calling out the expertise of engineers and lack of consultation:

“The Ontario Society of Professional Engineers has issued more than half a dozen critical reports on the Liberals’ tendency to let green talk and politics override sound policy.  Instead of following the expert advice of engineers and people who understand the intricacies of electricity production and distribution, the government took to issuing directives right out of the Premier’s office. ‘Because they know how to turn a light bulb on and off, they’ll issue policy statements on the most complex engineering system on the planet,’ said Paul Acchione, a former head of the engineers’ society.”

“One of the most consistent critics of the political takeover of the system has been the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE). The society’s central message: ‘There does not appear to be any entity other than the ministry itself that has overall planning ownership of the electrical grid.’

Paul Acchione, an OSPE engineer with long experience in the electricity industry, says the government was ‘hiring political scientists and environmentalists because they thought they were the experts.’ As a result, the government has issued more than 100 ministerial directives that ignored the dramatic decline in demand and the realities of managing an electrical grid where new expensive supply was mushrooming all over the province.”

OSPE continues its strong advocacy work on the energy file, not only advising the government to make better use of existing surplus renewable and low carbon emission nuclear generation, but also educating the media and general public on the technical expertise that engineers have to offer in order to help mitigate the rise in electricity rates and greenhouse gas emissions.

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

What do you think the government is missing? What should Ontario do to fix its energy mix?


Featured image, photo cred: Peter J. Thompson/National Post

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Jaremko Nogotta

    This is HUGE! Ontario needs to start listening to engineers and make decisions rooted in evidence, not politically motivated choices. Way to go, OSPE!

  2. Sarah O'Day P.Eng.

    Terry really hit the nail on its head with this article, and I am happy to hear that OSPE is willing to take chances and challenge the government on its record regarding the prudent management of Ontario’s energy system. Ontarians deserve to know the truth and it is critical that engineers speak with an authoritative voice on this matter. Well done.

  3. Rachel Mack

    I find it surprising that the government did not consult with engineers before making some of these decisions, especially on matters of science engineering and math. I don’t know if any other party would do better, but it seems obviously in the public interest that government work with groups like OSPE to know what the dangers are and plan better. My 2 cents.

  4. Bob

    The simple answer here is change the government. The current one has not demonstrated any competence.

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