Energy minister, aides clash over conservation
Sources say senior Ontario bureaucrats oppose Cansfield's green ambitions
POSTED ON 12/05/06
TORONTO -- Ontario Energy Minister Donna Cansfield is several weeks late in responding to an advisory report on the sources of electricity because she is feuding with her senior bureaucrats about the role of energy conservation, according to government sources.
Ms. Cansfield's push for an aggressive conservation program is being resisted by senior bureaucrats, including her deputy minister, James Gillis, these sources say.The minister is believed to be pushing to at least triple the conservation savings recommended by Ontario Power Authority.
The OPA, an arm's-length government agency, recommended last December in its Supply Mix Advice Report that the government plan for 1,810 megawatts of conservation projects by 2025. This represents about 6 per cent of Ontario's current generating capacity.
One Energy Ministry official, who did not wish to be identified, said the OPA's commitment to conservation was "ludicrous."
The extent to which conservation efforts are pursued is important because it affects how many new power plants will have to be built in Ontario during the next two decades.
The OPA says the province needs to add between 9,400 and 12,400 megawatts of nuclear energy by 2025 to address a looming electricity crisis.The authority recommended spending up to $40-billion to build new reactors or to refurbish existing ones to maintain nuclear power's 50-per-cent share of Ontario's overall electricity production.
The sources say that Ms. Cansfield wants to reduce the role that nuclear power plays in providing electricity.She believes that Ontario has fallen behind many parts of the world in establishing programs that would reduce demand and that aggressive targets would stimulate this effort.
In 1992, the former Ontario Hydro aimed to reduce demand by 5,200 MW, but its conservation efforts were later discontinued.
Ministry officials are watching closely the situation in Europe where the European Union has mandated that electricity consumption must decline 10 per cent by 2020.
"If we don't set aggressive targets, we'll never set the right processes in place," one official said.
Ms. Cansfield said yesterday that her response to the OPA report, which was due in mid-April, would be available "shortly."
Asked why it has been delayed, she said: "We're looking at the whole plan in terms of the mix review, we're looking at all of the supply options, and we're making sure that we do it under what we said -- maximize our existing generation and transmission, build new and create that culture of conservation."
Mr. Gillis was unavailable for comment yesterday.
Sources say the minister favours programs to switch the fuel source for home appliances from electricity to natural gasand to encourage small-scale renewable energy projects. She spearheaded the government's conservation efforts when she was parliamentary secretary to the previous energy minister.
Ms. Cansfield has been advised, for example, that electricity demand could be cut by 2,500 MW by 2025 if water heaters were heated by natural gas.The minister is also said to be intrigued by the potential of a plan announced in March under which fixed-price contracts would be offered to wind-power, hydro and biomass projects producing up to 10 MW.