Of course, this is the government website, so obviously everything in it is from the point of view of the government. I don’t have a problem with this; the provincial government, along with every other group or individual in the province, has the right to put forth its opinion. Indeed, I find this service very useful.
Since July 1, I have received 22 emails from this service. Three concerned the Royal visit, three were about the strike (now resolved) at INCO, in Sudbury, four were smog advisories, six were miscellaneous (appointment of a new OPP chief, for example), and six extolled the virtues of the new HST tax. One typical title is: McGuinty Government’s Tax Reform Benefits High-Tech Industry. Not ONE of these emails gave any hint of the cuts to the Green Energy Act’s MicroFIT program.
As anyone who reads this column knows, I have been a steady proponent of the Green Energy Act, passed last year. I believe it is a good act – indeed excellent, as it makes Ontario just about the only jurisdiction in North America to take the future fuel shortage seriously (e.g. Peak Oil), and proposes a workable plan to minimise this impact on the province. Although I am not a great fan of McGuinty, this act alone would have guaranteed him my vote in the next provincial election.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered, quite by accident, that the tariffs for alternate energy were changed without notice. The Green Energy Act includes a provision for individuals and companies to produce electricity from renewable resources, e.g. wind, solar, biogas, biomass, etc. As the technology for generating electricity this was is still in its infancy, and consequently relatively expensive compared to a coal-fired generating station, the prices paid to producers were significantly higher than what Hydro One charges.
Now, granted, the government is paying way more than market price for solar electricity, and this price cannot remain forever. The reason it is paying such a high price is to give producers (homeowners, farmers) a decent rate of return. The increased market for solar energy supplies encourages research and innovation in the industry, which in turn will lower the costs of generation.
However, the provincial Liberals played dirty. Announcing a cut in rates is one thing. But to cut the rates for people who have invested many thousands of dollars pending approval of their contract is unethical, even by Harper standards.
McGuinty seems to have learned about timing such announcements from Harper too. The news of the cuts was not made on any official government news website, but was buried in the Ontario Power Authority website. It was posted on Friday, July 2, when many people were celebrating an extra long weekend, which virtually guaranteed its secrecy.
The announcement cites too many people are applying, and it’s taking too long to process the applications. McGuinty claims the Green Energy Act will result in 50,000 new jobs in the province. Too bad half a dozen of these new jobs weren’t given to people who could process the backlog of applications.
There is a 30 day period where the Ontario Power Authority will hear submissions about the changes. However, because of the timing of the announcement, and the deliberate attempt to hide it, the appeal period is less than three weeks in reality.