Ontario’s new PC government should adopt energy management principles • COLUMN
By David Arkell
June 18, 2018 - Energy costs were front-and-centre in the recent Ontario election. As the new Progressive Conservative government takes office, what kind of changes can we expect? What kind of changes are needed?
By David Arkell
Energy managers know from experience that effectively managing energy in a production plant or an organization requires a comprehensive, holistic approach. The same applies when managing Ontario’s energy. The systems that deliver our electricity, natural gas and liquid fuels are complex and integrated. Alleviating the system’s price pain points with single “one-off” actions could have unintended and unwanted consequences.
Nothing is gained by transferring pain from one set of customers to another.
Electricity costs had a high-profile in the election. The PCs quite rightly focused on energy end use customers who felt their interests had not been properly recognized. The incoming government has a good chance at delivering on their commitments, but only if they take a “whole system” approach to managing Ontario’s energy.
Energy management principles should guide a comprehensive approach to Ontario’s energy system. By adopting these principles, the new government could usher in system-wide improvements for the benefit and the competitiveness of Ontario customers:
1. Energy customers need to be in control of their energy consumption and purchasing decisions. The energy system has been overly dependent on governments and utilities to determine prices and costs. This mindset has, over time, left customers as price-takers. Giving customers greater control over their own energy use and procurement will restore greater balance in the system.
2. To make responsible decisions, energy customers need good and timely access to their data. With control comes responsibility and accountability. To effectively manage their energy consumption and costs, customers need to easily make sense of their utility bills. With knowledge comes the ability to act.
3. Market price signals give customers needed information. Reliable price signals help customers make informed decisions. A well-designed, competitive retail energy market provides the best way to discover true prices. Energy markets have been moving in this direction for some time. The provincial PCs should not slip back into the top-down regulatory price-setting of the past.
4. Smaller businesses should no longer be disadvantaged in the Class A and B Global Adjustment program. This will be easier to do when the first three principles are followed.
5. Ontario’s energy system must be trusted. Timely, ongoing investments are needed to ensure power quality, reliability and supply.
6. Energy policy should reinforce the competitive advantages of Ontario’s clean grid. The risks of global climate disruption are driving a conservation and renewable energy transition across the globe. Ontario’s clean electricity grid is a North American competitive advantage. Any new energy direction for Ontario should recognize and build upon this formidable strength.
Changes in Ontario’s energy system are needed but will be tricky to make. A principled, holistic energy management approach that focuses on customers can show the way.
David Arkell is the president & CEO of 360 Energy, and has a deep understanding of energy markets and customer energy usage. He has developed results-driven innovations in utility tracking and whole-organization process integration. Together, these have made 360 Energy a leader in energy management consulting across North America. For more information, visit www.360energy.net.