LETTER: Winding down White Pines, others saved $790 Million

Dear Editor,

I’d like to correct the information submitted by Anthea Weese in her Oct. 28 letter on natural gas expansion (The Picton Gazette, Oct. 28, 2021 A Climate Emergency?).

I was very pleased to recently announce that up to $5,206,389 million has been allocated through Phase 2 of the Natural Gas Expansion Program to ensure that my constituents in Cherry Valley have access to reliable and affordable heating. We’re expanding access to natural gas and putting money back in people’s pockets. The savings will be big, with the average household saving up to $1,500 per year in energy costs by switching to natural gas from costlier fuel sources. And businesses are expected to save up to 30 per cent on energy costs per year. The best part about our plan is that it’s funded by existing natural gas ratepayers, not taxpayers

The Natural Gas Expansion Program is financed through a $1 per month charge that is included in natural gas bills. This makes our approach to gas expansion predictable and sustainable.

Many of the customers that will benefit from the Natural Gas Expansion Program are switching from more carbon-intensive heating sources, like propane and heating oil. This means that natural gas expansion can be net carbon-negative, as natural gas replaces more GHG-intensive sources of energy.

We know first-hand from the many success stories we heard in Phase 1 that access to natural gas has been a game-changer for rural communities, families and businesses.

For example, Chatham-Kent area greenhouse owner Greg Devries said he was pleased with the outcome of our program because it offered him a new path to grow his business. “We’ve tapped into the natural gas infrastructure at our farms and have already seen the benefits to our bottom line,” said Devries, owner of Cedarline Greenhouses, who has two farms connected to the Chatham-Kent Rural Pipeline Expansion Project. “We have plans to expand our operation to include up to 30 acres of new greenhouses, and natural gas helped make that happen. We can continue to grow knowing that we’ll have long-term access to this affordable energy source.” We’re excited to build on the success stories from our Phase 1 Expansion Program because we know that many communities would never be able to afford the up-front costs on their own. This leads me to the next point I wish to clarify.

The former Green Energy Act forced Ontario into contracts with wind and solar power producers that cost significantly higher than market price, producing a bad deal for Ontario ratepayers. This plan was neither affordable, nor reliable. That’s why one of the first things we did was wind down more than 750 unnecessary and wasteful renewable energy contracts signed by the previous government, including White Pines.

Doing so means we saved Ontario ratepayers about $790 million in long-term electricity system costs for power that we did not need.

I’m proud that Ontario’s electricity system is now 94-per-cent emissions-free, and as Minister of Energy and Bay of Quinte MPP, I remain committed to delivering clean, reliable and affordable energy for families, employers, small businesses, seniors, and all communities across our great province.

Todd Smith MPP,

Bay of Quinte