On September 23, 2016, Premier Wynne sent a public Mandate Letter to Minister of Energy Glenn Thibeault, setting out “instructions on priorities.” According to the letter, Minister Thibeault’s mandate is “to promote the development of a safe, reliable, secure and environmentally-sustainable energy supply.” To meet this mandate, the Premier listed priorities in six areas.
- Taking Further Action to Mitigate the Impact of Electricity Prices on Consumers and Businesses – This includes the removal of HST on electricity bills and the enhancement of the existing Rural or Remote Rate Protection program, as set out in the recent speech from the throne and Bill 13 – Ontario Rebate for Electricity Consumers Act, 2016. As well, Minister Thibeault is directed to work with the Ontario Energy Board on its development of a First Nation on-reserve electricity rate. Minister Thibeault has already initiated this process in directing the OEB to examine and report by January 1, 2017 on options for the design, development and implementation of an appropriate electricity rate or rate assistance for on-reserve First Nations electricity consumers.
- Developing the Province’s Next Long-Term Energy Plan – As previously discussed, the work on the LTEP is underway. The Mandate Letter makes clear that the next LTEP must be aligned with Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP).
- Promoting Energy Conservation and the Adoption of Renewable Energy – One listed priority is to work with the IESO “to source affordable, clean and reliable electricity, including renewables.” It is not clear how this priority aligns with the announcement that Ontario will immediately suspend the second round of the Large Renewable Procurement (LRP II) and Energy-from-Waste Standard Offer Program. Another conservation priority is to implement an “updated and streamlined” net metering program that “supports customer choice in generating clean, renewable energy, helps reduce load on the electricity system and enables innovative technologies and customer-utility relationships.”
- Supporting the Growth of the Low-Carbon Economy and Reductions in Greenhouse Gas Pollution – The Minister of Energy is directed to work with other ministers and local distribution companies to implement key components of the CCAP, including making Ontario an affordable jurisdiction to install or retrofit clean energy systems and establishing a free overnight electric vehicle charging program for residential consumers starting in 2017.
- Engaging with Indigenous Partners in Energy Planning Decisions and Supporting Economic Development and Reconciliation – A key priority under this topic is working with First Nation communities in Northwestern Ontario to reduce reliance on fossil fuels for electricity generation (connecting more communities to the grid).
- Driving Efficiencies and Maximizing Return on Investment from Electricity Sector – Under this heading, Minister Thibeault is directed to work with the Ontario Energy Board and Ontario’s local distribution companies to ensure they produce savings and drive improvements in performance to the benefit of customers.
Many of the listed priorities continue or reinforce programs and priorities that are already in place. It can be seen that there will be continued pressure on local distribution companies who will be asked to expand their services (for such things as accommodating net metering and increasing availability of separately metered vehicle charging), and to reduce their costs to produce savings for consumers.