Ontario announces initiative re energy efficiency in hospitals, and updates Infrastructure Plan

hospital for sick kidsA press release on November 27 from Ontario’s Ministry of Health announced  an  investment of $64 million through  a Hospital Energy Efficiency Program, which will support 180 projects at 98 hospitals across the province, providing more efficient heating, ventilation, air conditioning and lighting. The funds will be directed from the proceeds of cap and trade auctions, and are in addition to the $9 billion for new hospital projects already announced in the 2017 Budget statement, as part of Infrastructure spending.

On November 28,  the government released Building Better Lives  , an  update for 2017 about the  Ontario Long Term Infrastructure Plan which was launched in 2014, and which integrates climate change priorities in infrastructure planning for public transit, transportation, schools and hospitals.    The government press release cites a study by the Centre for Spatial Economics to defend its program.   The Economic Benefits of Public Infrastructure Spending in Ontario (March 2017) estimates that  in the short-run, gross domestic product rises $0.91per dollar of spending, 4.7 jobs are generated per million dollars spent,  and $0.27 of each dollar spent by government is recovered in additional Ontario and federal and government revenues.

Building Better Lives also includes a Technical Appendix with details on the asset management strategies of key ministries and agencies, as well as information about their assets. The Appendix also provides an overview of the three-year review to be undertaken to identify best practices and to transform the asset management process for government ministries.  This status report and review is required under the Ontario Infrastructure for Jobs and Prosperity Act, 2015.

Ontario continues its commitment to nuclear power in newly-released 2017 Long-Term Energy Plan

On October 26, Ontario’s Minister of Energy  released the 2017 Long-Term Energy Plan – Delivering Fairness and Choice, an update of previous versions in 2010 and 2013.   Clean Energy Canada states “Ontario’s long-term energy plan provides more direction than details, but it stays the course in building a modern, affordable and flexible energy system.”  Others, such as the Ontario Clean Air Coalition,  have concerns that the continuing commitment to nuclear power generation comes at the expense of development of renewables.  While the policy seems to focus on the political task of making energy more affordable and giving consumers more energy options, some noteworthy goals relate to “ enhancing net metering by allowing more people the opportunity to produce clean energy and use it to power their homes and lower their electricity bills. ” … “Allowing utilities to intelligently and cost-effectively integrate electric vehicles into their grids, including smart charging in homes”   … and increased oversight of fees charged by private providers “strengthening protection for vulnerable consumers in condominiums and apartments to protect them from energy disconnection in winter.”  Key reading from the LTEP: Chapter 6 Responding to the challenge of climate change  . The next step is for the Ontario Energy Board and the Independent Electricity System Operator to submit implementation plans to the Minister of Energy for approval.

The LTEP summarizes Ontario’s energy policies to date and forecasts demand for the future. For more detail and analysis on those aspects, see the CBC,  or  “Hydro Prices to keep rising just a bit more slowly” in the Ottawa Citizen (Oct. 26) which points out that the province is forecasting almost flat demand for electricity for the next 20 years, as conservation and efficiency savings are traded for  increased demand for electric vehicles and transit. (the report assumes  2.4 million electric vehicles will be on the roads by 2035).

Controversy surrounds the role of nuclear power in the plan.  The Power Workers Union,  which continues to lobby for nuclear power , calls the new LTEP “good news for the environment and the economy”  in their press release , stating:    “Today’s latest provincial Long-Term Energy Plan (LTEP) confirms the pivotal role nuclear energy will play in Ontario’s clean energy future.  Recognizing the significant environmental and economic benefits that this safe, reliable generation delivers, the provincial government remains committed to refurbishing all of Ontario’s publicly-owned nuclear reactors and to the four-year extension of the operations of the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station to 2024”.  In contrast, the Ontario Clean Air Coalition reacted with “Ontario doubles down on obsolete nuclear – and you’re paying for it” , which states: “Ontario’s fixation with obsolete nuclear energy is to say the least puzzling, but what is clear is that this fixation is going to cost us dearly. Please sign our petition calling on Premier Wynne to make a deal with Quebec to lower our electricity costs and to open the way for a modern renewable energy system. ”  In a similar vein, the David Suzuki Foundation press release states:  “Ontario’s new Long-Term Energy Plan is both encouraging and worrisome. The former because it recognizes the importance of clean air and addressing climate change; the latter because of its embrace of nuclear power and its lack of a road map to expand renewable energy.” … “ the province’s continued reliance on nuclear for about half its power is troubling. In addition to concerns around uranium mining and waste disposal, nuclear has not proven to be cost-effective.”

 

Darlington_Nuclear_Masthead

$13 Billion Darlington Nuclear Plant refurbishment is reportedly over budget

Proposals for a green transition that is just and inclusive in Ontario

decent_work_in_the_green_economy-coverDecent Work in the Green Economy, released on October 11 , combines research on green transitions worldwide with the reality of  labour market trends in Ontario, and includes economic modelling of  Ontario’s cap and trade program, conducted by EnviroEconomics and Navius Research.  The resulting analysis identifies which sectors are expected to grow strongly under a green transition (e.g. utilities and waste management and remediation),  which will see lower growth (e.g. petroleum refining and petrochemical production), and which will see a transformation of skills requirements (e.g. mining, manufacturing, and  forestry). Section 3 of the report discusses the impacts on job quality (including wages, benefits, unionization, and job permanence), as well as skills requirements.  The general discussion in Section 3 is supplemented by two detailed Appendices about the employment impacts by economic sector,  and by disadvantaged and equity-seeking groups (which includes racialized workers, Indigenous people, workers with disabilities, newcomers, women, and rural Ontarians.) A final  Appendix describes the modelling behind the analysis, which projects employment impacts of low carbon technologies by 2030.

The paper calls for a comprehensive Just Transition Strategy for Ontario, and proposes  six core elements illustrated by case study “success stories”.   These case studies include the Solar City Program in Halifax, Nova Scotia, (which uses local supply chains and accounted for local employment impacts), and the UK Transport Infrastructure Skills Strategy (which incorporated diversity goals and explicit targets in workforce development and retraining initiatives).  An important element of the recommended Just Transition Strategy includes a dedicated Green Transitions Fund, to transfer funding for targeted programs to communities facing disproportionate job loss; to universities or colleges to provide specialized academic programs; to social enterprise or service providers to carry out re-training programs; to directly impacted companies to invest in their employees; and to individuals in transition (much like EI payments).

The authors also call for better data collection to measure and monitor the link between green economy policies and employment outcomes, and better mechanisms for regular, ongoing dialogue.  This call for ongoing dialogue seems intended to provide a role for workers (and unions, though they are less often mentioned). The authors state: “No effort to ensure decent work in the green economy will be successful without meaningfully engaging workers who are directly impacted by the transition, to understand where and how they might need support. Just as important will be the ongoing engagement with employers and industry to understand the changing employment landscape, and how workers can best prepare for it.” And, on page 39,  “Public policy will be a key driver in ensuring that this transition is just and equitable. …. Everyone has a role to play in this transition. Governments, employers, workers, unions and non-profit organizations alike must remember that if we fail to ensure that the green transition is just and inclusive, we will have missed a vital opportunity to address today’s most pressing challenges. But if we design policies and programs that facilitate this transition with decent work in mind, they have the potential to benefit all Ontarians.”

Decent Work in the Green Economy was published by the  Mowat Centre at the University of Toronto, in cooperation with the Smart Prosperity Institute at the University of Ottawa.  In addition to economic modelling, the analysis and policy discussion is based on an extensive literature review as well as expert interviews and input from government, industry, labour and social justice representatives. Part of the purpose of the report is to initiate discussion “between those actively supporting the transition to a green economy and those advocating for decent work” as defined by the ILO.  Further, the report states: “ Importantly, this conversation must address the need for equal opportunities among historically disadvantaged and equity-seeking groups who currently face barriers to accessing decent work.”

Ontario, Quebec and California sign formal agreement to link their carbon markets

On September 22, Premier Couillard of Quebec hosted Premier Wynne of Ontario and California Governor Jerry Brown in Québec City, where they signed an agreement which formally brings Ontario into the existing joint carbon market of the Western Climate Initiative (WCI).  This comes as no surprise: the government had announced its intention to join the WCR in April 2015 as part of its Climate Change Action Plan.  When Ontario joins up with Quebec and California, effective January 1, 2018,  the carbon market will cover a population of more than 60 million people and about C$4 trillion in GDP. The three governments will harmonize regulations and reporting, while also planning and holding joint auctions of GHG emission allowances.  Text of the Agreement on the Harmonization and Integration of Cap-and-Trade Programs for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions is here.  Here is  an introduction to Ontario’s cap and trade program, which was announced as part of the  For an up-to-date description of the Western Climate Initiative and its importance as a model for sub-national, international co-operation, see   “Will Other States Join California’s International Climate Pact?”  in The Atlantic (August 10  2017).

The Western Climate Initiative Inc. is  based in Sacramento California, and  is now  “a non-profit corporation formed to provide administrative and technical services to support the implementation of state and provincial greenhouse gas emissions trading programs” .

Federal government about to release its proposals for promised national carbon pricing system as California debates radical changes to its cap-and-trade program

In advance of a consultation paper by the federal government, expected to be released in the week of May 15, the Pembina Institute released a Backgrounder report , Putting a price on carbon pollution across Canada . The Pembina report  outlines the current federal and provincial carbon pricing policies in Canada, and makes recommendations for the national benchmark plan promised by 2018. Recommendations  include that any benchmark should at least  provide guidance on treatment of Export Import Trade Exposed sectors and be designed to minimize carbon leakage and competitiveness impacts; and stipulate that cap-and-trade systems must have a cap decline rate in line with a 30% reduction below 2005 levels by 2030. Pembina places emphasis on the need for a 2020 carbon pricing review, as well as frequent carbon pricing and climate policy reviews to ensure that Canada meets its obligations under the Paris Agreement.

A briefer paper on carbon pricing, also released in May, also summarizes the existing provincial carbon pricing plans – but from a right-wing point of view. From the Fraser Institute:   Poor Implementation undermines Carbon Tax efficiency in Canada  .

Also on the topic of carbon pricing, Pembina posted a blog  on May 11 “Time for Premier Brad Wall to focus on carbon price implementation” , in which Nathalie Chalifour, a Professor of Law at University of Ottawa, explains her opinion that the federal government is within its constitutional authority to impose a carbon pricing mechanism on the provinces, despite Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall`s recently stated opinion to the contrary.

Meanwhile, as reported in the National Observer (May 4) , “California tables new cap-and-trade plan that jumps ahead of Quebec and Ontario” . Quebec and California  have a linked carbon credit market that expires at the end of 2020, and Ontario`s cap and trade plan is schedule to link to the California−Quebec system in 2018.  Continued partnership with California  will demand that those provinces raise their minimum price per tonne of carbon and abolish offsets, among other changes outlined in the  bill currently before the California state Senate . For a full discussion of the proposed legislation, read “California is about to revolutionize climate policy … again” (May 3) in Vox.  Author David Roberts states: ” The changes that SB 775 proposes for the state’s carbon trading program are dramatic — and, to my eyes, amazingly thoughtful. I know some environmental groups have reservations (on which more later), but in my opinion, if it passes in anything close to its current form, it will represent the most important advance in carbon-pricing policy in the US in a decade. Maybe ever.”