Ontario’s 2,400-km power pipe dream – by Terence Corcoran (National Post – July 21, 2015)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

In its 2013 long-term energy plan, the Ontario government said it would begin looking at importing electricity from other jurisdictions when such imports “are cost effective for Ontario ratepayers.” On Monday, Ontario Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli appears to have noticed that electricity rates in the province have already soared beyond the point of cost-effectiveness, thereby making it attractive to look at importing cheap power, as per plan, from other jurisdictions.

In comments surrounding the announcement of a joint “high-level working group” to study electricity trade between Ontario and Newfoundland & Labrador, Chiarelli said the objective is to “bring down rates” in Ontario. Well, that’s news.

Anyone who follows his public pronouncements knows that he has been blissfully unperturbed by Ontario’s soaring electricity prices. So his acknowledgment it might be necessary to bring rates down will be welcome by consumers and industries. In the past, the minister has mostly rejected the idea that electricity rates are all that high and need to be reduced.

Less encouraging, however, is the proposed source of the cheaper electricity, hydro power development in Newfoundland & Labrador, from where electricity would have to be wheeled about 2,400 kilometres to make it to Toronto. As my friend Lawrence Solomon quipped, “Well, at least the power would be cheaper than wind.”

To set the scene for Monday’s joint-study announcement, Premier Kathleen Wynne last week flew to Muskrat Falls, site of the Newfoundland & Labrador power project whose original $7.7-billion cost is now likely heading for $10-billion.

There, Wynne donned a hard hat for a photo-op with N.L. Premier Paul Davis and bantered about the need for cooperation between the two provinces. Then, they flew back to St. John’s to sign the Canadian Energy Strategy “to ensure our country’s energy security.”

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