Solar Projects In Ontario May Have Skipped Certain Approval Steps

Billions of dollars of new solar and wind power projects were approved without many of the usual planning, regulatory and oversight processes, notes Jim McCarter, office of the auditor general for Ontario, in a 2011 annual report.

‘While this helped these projects get off the ground quickly, their high cost will add significantly to ratepayers' electricity bills in the future,’ McCarter said in a statement.

Further, McCarter stated, ‘Going forward, it will be critical for the Ministry of Energy and the Ontario Power Authority to conduct an objective cost-benefit assessment of the progress made to date to provide government decision-makers with the information they need to strike an appropriate balance between the promotion of green energy and the price of electricity in Ontario.’

The report notes that one objective of the Green Energy and Green Economy Act of 2009 was to increase production of wind and solar power to help make up for the planned phase-out of coal-fired generation plants by 2014. The government indicated at the time that it would lead to modest hikes in household electricity bills of about 1% annually. However, costs were later revised to a 7.9% annual increase over the next five years.

The Dalton McGuinty government has already said it is concerned about the impact of its green energy subsidies on ratepayers and that it will address the issue in a review of the program that it launched recently.

The auditor general's annual report will likely be used as ammunition by opponents of Ontario's minority Liberal government. McGuinty has championed green power, arguing that developing solar and wind projects will create jobs and build expertise in a growing sector. However, opposition politicians have complained about rising electricity costs.

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