Announced this week, the McGuinty Liberals are going to extend subsidized energy rates for businesses. While some corporations are applauding the move others, especially those in the forestry industry, believe this annoucement is too late and not extensive enough. Some of the industry's plants have already closed down. Some critics are also charging that by extending the subsidy, first given under the previous Conservative government, the Liberals are admitting to a lack of vision in Ontario's power strategy. The problem isn't so much that Ontario lacks vision - though it does - it is that Ontario just keeps forking out money that it doesn't have to artificially lower energy prices. The power subsidy to corporations costs Ontario approximately $300 million per year, though some estimates put last year's rebates over $700 million. For a government that has been crying 'broke' (with some justification early on), this subsidy policy is a costly one and is only going to cost us more. The reality in Ontario is that on top of the hundreds of millions of dollars it's giving back in energy rebates, the province is also looking at dishing out tens of billions to refurbish and build new nuclear power plants. What Ontario should be looking at is how it can spend these millions or billions of dollars to develop conservation and green energy plans. The existing nuclear power plants were the reason Ontario's fully public energy system went broke in the first place and gave reason to the Tories to partially privatize it. Now, instead of an energy system that looks to benefit the public - like it should - it costs the public a lot of public dollars and the system looks to only benefit itself. Recently, the McGuinty Liberals announced a plan that would allow Ontario residences to produce their own energy through renewable and green sources. The plan also allows residences and businesses to earn money for their excess power. However, this plan lacks any real incentive for businesses and residences, mainly, to purchase the expensive equipment needed to produce power. The cost of outfitting a house with enough solar panels to cover heating alone can cost upwards of $10 000. That is a large amount of capital needed to just have the panels installed on existing houses. What the McGuinty government should be considering is instead of forking out billions for nuclear-reactors is how they can use - probably just a fraction - of those billions to entice home owners and businesses to purchase solar panels and private wind generators. Some possible ideas:
- put money into a retrofit fund for businesses and homes
- offer tax incentives, to both builders and owners, for having solar panels and wind power generators installed into new houses
- cut the PST on the purchases of solar panels and wind generators
- provide the new Smart Metres free of charge to those that have personal energy supplies installed
- provide tax cuts to companies that develop and sell solar panels and wind generators to help bring retail costs down
These are five ideas that I came up with in about 2 minutes. The McGuinty government has has 2 years already and the best they've come up with is building more nuclear and fossil fuel plants and a home-production plan that provides no real incentives. It's time for the McGuinty government to get serious about conservation and alternative energy production. Bigger energy plants and unsustainable rebate plans only costs the province (and ultimately its citizens) money; money that the government claims it doesn't have and in turn hurts our other public programs.
The McGuinty government should be looking at rebuilding our public system based on renewable and green energy resources. This is truly the only way to keep energy prices down because a public system is not concerned about profits or shareholders. Its only concern is to the people who live in the province and providing them with energy. We once had a public system that functioned well and served its purpose. It's time we had that once again based on alternative production and a strong vision.