Energy Conservation Responsibility Act, 2006 (Part II)

February 20, 2006



House Hansard: Session 38.2, February 20, 2006

Mr. Norm Miller (Parry Sound-Muskoka): It’s my pleasure to add some comments to the minister’s speech this evening and that of the member from Peterborough on Bill 21, which is the Energy Conservation Responsibility Act, 2005.

Just a minute ago, the member from Timmins-James Bay was saying how conservation is motherhood and apple pie, and I agree with that. The question for me is, should these smart meters – which are just part of this bill, but it seems to be what we’re focusing on right now – be mandatory?

We heard from the leader of the third party when he was up in Atikokan; his number for the cost of the program is $2 billion. But for the individual household, the idea of course is that you shift your use of electricity to non-peak times – for example, the middle of the night – and you get a lower cost on electricity. But there is speculation that it could cost up to $8 a month. I know that’s what Tom Adams, who is the executive director of Energy Probe, says they’ll cost.

I attended a day of hearings up in Atikokan – or, rather, up in Thunder Bay. Atikokan Hydro was there and they said that in their remote rural situation in the north, they have situations where they might have six meters. They’re in a very remote situation. They have to build a tower and they have to hook up phone lines. The cost is very substantial – they said up to 80% of the cost of the whole asset of Atikokan Hydro – just to put these meters in.

My feeling is that it should be optional, because in many cases for low-electricity users it just won’t make sense. It will cost you money to hook these meters up, and there will be very little savings. I think it should be up to individual residents, the individual consumer, to decide if they think that by putting in a smart meter, they’re going to save some money and for them it will make sense.

The Acting Speaker: The member from Peterborough has two minutes to respond.

Mr. Leal: I want to thank the members from Pickering-Ajax-Uxbridge, Simcoe North, Timmins-James Bay and Parry Sound-Muskoka, who provided comments.

I just want to reiterate one of the best real-life examples, Chatham-Kent: 1,000 meters in their pilot study, an all-in cost of $1.29, verified by a third party, the accounting firm of Deloitte. I’d recommend that everybody in this House take an opportunity to read the results from Chatham-Kent, because it provides detailed background information that’s so important to legislators in order to make a decision on Bill 21, which is the smart metering energy conservation initiative.

My colleague the member from Mississauga West in fact had a smart meter installed in his home. He indicated to us in committee the amount of electricity he has saved in his home when he introduced and installed a smart meter to his day-to-day living. Clearly, the member from Mississauga West demonstrates what effect smart metering can have.

If you extrapolate the result from Chatham-Kent and you look at it closely, I think it’s reasonable to conclude that the estimates that have been provided by the Ministry of Energy to install smart meters in the province are certainly within the dollar amount that has been suggested for this initiative. When you look at Chatham-Kent and see that people did save electricity and the payback was greater than the cost of installing the smart meter, the real value of smart metering and conservation for Ontario is very visible through that study.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr. Yakabuski: It’s a pleasure to join third reading debate of Bill 21, An Act to enact the Energy Conservation Leadership Act, 2006, and to amend the Electricity Act, 1998.

I would put it to the member for Peterborough – I do appreciate the member for Peterborough’s input on the travelling committee as well as that of the member for Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh, the member for Mississauga West, the member for Stoney Creek – I think there’s probably at least one more, but I can’t think of it right now. Those are members from the government side. I want to thank my colleagues the member for Parry Sound-Muskoka and the member for Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant for travelling and the member for Durham for sitting with me on that committee, and also the member for Kenora-Rainy River and leader of the third party for their input of course.

I would like to know if I could get some kind of commitment from the member for Peterborough who, as you know, is also the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Energy. He was going on quite extensively about how he applauded the pilot project in Chatham-Kent and quoted that figure very often of, I believe, $1.29.

Mr. Leal: All in.

Mr. Yakabuski: All in, $1.29. That’s the way we like it: all in, full price, $1.29. Could we expect it to be a commitment from this government that that is what smart metering will cost? I hardly think so. I heard somebody in the background, the member for Pickering-Ajax-Uxbridge, saying “Probably less.”

Probably not. The estimates go as high as $8, as you know, Mr. Speaker. My friend from Parry Sound-Muskoka indicated that Tom Adams of Energy Probe says the figure could go as high as $8. This could be another $2-billion boondoggle like the federal Liberal gun registry: a complete mess that has done nothing but cause problems and solved none.

Hon. George Smitherman (Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): That’s why the chiefs of police are in favour of it.

Mr. Yakabuski: The Minister of Health has wakened from his slumber. It’s good to have him here tonight.

Mr. Speaker, if I could get back on topic without the heckling from the government side, this could be another $2-billion boondoggle, as I say, just like the federal Liberal gun registry.

Some things were raised at the committee hearings with regard to smart meters; there is a varying range of opinion as to whether they’re worthless, somewhat useful, very useful or the best thing since they invented the wheel. They did run the gamut, and we had varying opinions on them.

There were lot of concerns about smart metering: a lot of concerns with regard to privacy, concerns with regard to lack of detail. You see, the minister started talking about smart meters months and months ago – I’m trying to think of exactly how many – but as of yet, no RFP, and people who are in the business are asking themselves, “Is the government doing it; is it not?” There’s no way they’re going to be in a position – they’ve got a new energy pricing schedule based on smart metering to come into effect on May 1, a scaled price of 2.8, 6.8 and 9.3, depending on the time of day you’re using the power. They’re not going to be in any position at all to implement that, because none of these meters are going to be in place. We’re in February now; we’re almost into March.

It’s like everything else: The government is great at coming up with an idea, they’re great at picking a destination, but they’re not all that good at navigating their way there. As Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re probably going to end up somewhere else.” That’s just about what this government is embarking on – a trip to never-never land or something, or maybe they think they’re going to Disney World. Who knows? Maybe they think they’re going to get cheap power down there.

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