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Hydro discounts a sign of Wynne’s desperation

Her popularity plummeting to unplumbed depths, Kathleen Wynne is in full-out desperation mode. Almost as desperate as the party that would love to dump her but have no better options to roll out.

With that in mind, the Liberals are in damage-control mode, most notably on its mismanagement of Ontario’s electricity file and increased deficits to offer short-term cuts to hydro bills.

From corrupt practices in handing out contracts to skyrocketing rates, everything Wynne touches turns to manure.

The failures have been well documented. The sweetheart deals to renewable energy producers. The gas plant scandals. The selling off public assets to cover for fiscal mismanagement. The payouts to partisans and public-sector unions. The continued building of new, expensive capacity even while selling-off at a loss the unneeded power. The smart meter fiasco.

Ontarians are paying ever-increasing rates with little to show for it. And there’s no end in sight, which bodes ill for both future bills and the overall economic impact.

As with just about every policy, the Liberals are guilty of poor decision making, largely the result of partisan thinking – a mixture of corruption and incompetence.

Giving lip service to the environment – the impetus for the Green Energy Act and carbon tax schemes – the government has done little to promote actual conservation, instead making policies to boost its own coffers while working against the public interest. By doing so, it’s also squandered a golden opportunity to reduce consumption, actually lower bills and provide an economic boost.

The cheapest and most efficient energy is the energy you don’t need. There’s a solid argument to be made, backed up with numbers, that it would be cheaper and much more beneficial for governments and utilities to pay for home retrofits, including buying new energy-efficient appliances, than to invest in dubious megaprojects such as nuclear reactors.

As opposed to mouthing platitudes, the government could have committed to market-driven reasons for going green. There are real cost savings in retrofitting homes and going with new technologies. As a bonus, the work provides far more employment (for tradespeople, suppliers and the like) and spreads the wealth around to every community, rather than putting it in the hands of a few.

How’s that for real stimulus spending? Sounds like a much better idea than bailing out banks and profligate corporations.

That we’re consuming less electricity today – and the trend is expected to continue – has less to do with conservation than it has with declines in the economy.

What we do know is that demand has been falling for a while, even as prices skyrocket. Ideally, falling demand and inexpensive conservation measures would offset or eliminate the need for costly new generating stations, likely nuclear given the combination of bureaucratic malaise and lobbying of officials.

Ontario is already sinking billions in refurbishing its stock of nuclear reactors even as declining demand forces it to sell surplus power at a loss. Spending yet more on capital-intensive nuclear plants would lock the province into a situation with the potential of even more surplus power, with the need to use that electricity undermining conservation efforts.

Taking a new tack on electricity, including much lower rates down the road, first means jettisoning the current government that fails Ontarians with every step it takes.

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