The 2014 Ontario Budget passed the legislature in late July with important new energy measures. A first edition of this budget was defeated in the spring, triggering the June 12th provincial election which re-elected the Liberal government headed by Kathleen Wynne. Premier Wynne had committed to re-introducing her fiscal plan which was done in a special summer session of the legislature.
Among the energy measures contained in the 2014 Ontario Budget are:
- The commitment to remove the Debt Retirement Charge ( DRC ) from residential electricity bills at the end of 2015.
- Expanded initiatives to provide Ontario businesses with opportunities to reduce their electricity costs.
- A requirement that the Ontario Energy Board develop options for a sustainable, long-term electricity support program specifically designed to assist low-income families with their hydro bills.
Prominent among the enhanced energy incentives for Ontario business is a new Industrial Electricity Incentive program which intends to use up to four terawatt hours of current surplus baseload generating capacity to support domestic job creation and economic growth. Under this incentive program, the government will direct the Ontario Power Authority to accept applications for ‘sharply discounted electricity rates for local job creators’. The expectation is that the Ontario Power Authority will aim to award contracts under this stream by the end of 2014 and these contracts will be available for up to a ten-year term ending in December 2024.
A second business incentive involves an expanded Industrial Conservation Initiative which builds on a program launched in 2011 to reduce industrial power consumption during peak demand periods. The Ministry of Energy will expand the definition of Class A consumers, lowering the threshold from five MW to three MW and so increasing the number of Ontario businesses eligible for the program. The government estimates that eligible companies could save as much as 15 to 20 percent on their energy bills.
The new low-income support program being devised by the Ontario Energy Board is intended to replace the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit which is set to expire at the end of the calendar year 2015. The OEB will undertake a broad-based consultation with stakeholders to gather advice on the ingredients of such a plan and make recommendations to government for implementation at the same time as the Clean Energy Benefit expires.
In a related development, Premier Wynne has announced major changes in the senior levels of the Ontario public service. Among these changes are the appointment of Steve Orsini as the new secretary of the cabinet, the top job in the Ontario public service and Scott Thompson as Orsini’s replacement as the new deputy-minister of finance. Giles Gherson will become the new deputy minister for economic development, employment and infrastructure.