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Letter to the Editor – Globe and Mail – December 11, 2011 – Green Energy Act and Auditor General’s Report

December 9, 2011

The Editors
The Globe and Mail
444 Front St.
Toronto, Ontario

Re: “Green spendthrifts” (December 9, 2011)

Dear Sir or Madam,

The Ontario Auditor-General’s Report on Ontario’s Green Energy Act seems to me more a more a case of an outright hopping the fence into policy than “mission creep” (Radwanski, December 7). There are longstanding debates about how far auditor-generals should stray into matters of policy, but one thing is certain, that if you are going to go there then you need to do it well.

Unfortunately the Auditor-General's report fails badly on that front, and in doing so does more to inflame the debate about Ontario’s Green Energy Act than inform it. Indeed, at times the report seems more a recitation of every compliant (however dubious) that has ever been made against the legislation than a meaningful analysis.

The Auditor-General’s most fundamental error is looking at the impact of the GEA in isolation – as if the costs associated with the legislation would simply disappear if it were withdrawn. In such a scenario the power that would have come from renewables as a result of the legislation would need to come from somewhere else instead. The real question that then needs to be asked is what is cost of electricity obtained through the legislation’s feed-in-tariff relative to the available alternative sources? To the extent to which any serious analysis of that question has been done - principally a study published by the Pembina Institute last July – the cost impact to consumers of renewable electricity was marginal relative to the most likely alternative – increased natural gas-fired generation. At the same time renewables obtained under the legislation’s Feed-in-Tariff program avoided a range of cost and environmental risks associated with gas-fired generation.

There are unquestionably aspects of the Green Energy Act that require careful review, but the legislation is neither the cause of nor the solution to all that ails Ontario’s electricity system.

Yours sincerely,

Mark S. Winfield, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Coordinator Joint MES/JD Program
Chair, Sustainable Energy Initiative
Faculty of Environmental Studies
York University