Gateway Gazette

Where Is Alberta’s Electricity System Heading?

By Don MacIntyre, MLA 

Copyright Chris Bolin © 2015

The NDP government is launching a massive experiment with our electricity grid that will result in higher bills as a result of the $3 billion carbon tax.

We have seen the damage these types of bad policies have brought to other Canadian jurisdictions.

Almost ten years ago, the Ontario government decided that cost wasn’t a priority when it comes to generating electricity. In 2009, the Ontario Liberal government passed that province’s Green Energy Act.

Today, Ontario’s coal-fired electrical plants have all been shut down, despite the fact that not long before their closure, several of them had been outfitted with advanced air pollution control equipment.

Ontario’s thoroughly green objective for its electrical system sounded terrific, and certainly had good intentions, but no one analyzed the cost and the price tag for businesses and families who rely on the power grid.

No one seriously considered how moving from coal to wind and other sources in such a short period of time would impact families, small and medium sized businesses, manufacturing competitiveness, investment and jobs.

No one considered the fact that this energy policy, just like all energy policies, would end up redefining Ontario’s entire business and investment climate.

Today, according to the Association of Major Power Consumers, Ontario has the highest industrial electrical rates in North America.

In a recent report, Ontario’s Auditor General highlighted that during a single eight-year period Ontario electrical users paid $37 billion more than market price for their electricity. A direct result of these same policies will mean that between now and 2032, an additional cost of $130 billion above the market price of electricity will be added to that $37 billion overpayment.

In total, it adds up to an Ontario overpayment for electricity that is roughly equal to 25 per cent of Canada’s National Debt.

The Alberta NDP is taking us down a similar road, with Premier Rachel Notley praising the Ontario government for its management of the electricity grid (a genuine cause for concern).

When coupled with $3 billion in new taxes, this approach to electrical policy will make every Alberta family poorer at a time when they can least afford it. It also runs the risk of turning into an uncontrollable quagmire like in Ontario where consumers pay the highest electrical rates on the continent.

In Premier Notley’s plan, we don’t see economic discretion, deliberate calculations or extensive discussion on socio-economic impact. In this policy, we are faced with a hurried political initiative that is long on philosophy and short on technical merit.

The fact is, cost matters. Whether this NDP government likes it or not, everything in the world runs on a profit and a loss.  If money can’t be made, money won’t be invested. It’s as fundamental to the laws of economics as gravity is to laws of physics.

There is no virtue in imposing a policy that mimics the disaster that has occurred in Ontario.

There is no virtue in setting up a system that punishes people for heating their homes during the Alberta winter.

There is no virtue in creating an electrical system that will drive business and investment out of Alberta.

The NDP government should go back to the drawing board and come up with a made-in-Alberta approach to renewable energy that doesn’t compromise our economy or jobs, and doesn’t copy failed experiments from other jurisdictions.

Don MacIntyre is the Wildrose Shadow Minister for Electricity & Renewables. He was previously an instructor in Renewable Energy at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.

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