The Liberal government has tapped Richard Dicerni, a former head of Ontario Power Generation, to lead a year-long review of the Ontario Energy Board. It will look at how the OEB should keep up with new technology and new consumer demands, said Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault.
“Looking at the innovation that’s coming, so: solar panels on your roof, using the power during the day when you have our peak hours…storing some of that excess power, utilizing it for your electric vehicle, those are things that are going to actually help you lower your costs, lower your greenhouse gas emissions,” Thibeault said.
“These technologies didn’t exist 10 years ago, the last time the OEB started to look at a lot of its regulations and the updates that need to happen.”
Some local utilities are already taking advantage of examples Thibeault cited such as energy storage instead of a traditional approach relying solely on “poles and wires,” Thibeault said in a recent Empire Club speech.
“These (local distribution companies) should not face financial disincentives to this new and less costly approach, because of a regulatory model stuck in the 1980s,” he said.
The OEB sets rules for energy companies and establishes rates that consumers pay. The government says that in the last eight years the OEB has reduced companies’ requested rate increases by an average of 40 per cent.
A controversial application is before the board right now, from the partially privatized Hydro One. It seeks to increase rates by 0.5 per cent this year and 4.8 per cent next year. But Thibeault has said that no matter what application is brought forward, the government has committed, as part of its plan to reduce hydro rates, that increases will be held to the rate of inflation for the next four years.
The new OEB review will look at consumer protection, as well as how the board should be structured and how to adapt to new technologies.
More people are still to be appointed to the review panel, and they are set to report back to the minister of energy—whoever it may be following the June election—by the end of 2018. Thibeault couldn’t say what the cost will be, but he said it would fit into the current budget by finding “efficiencies” to pay for it.
The review shouldn’t be taken as a critique of the existing system, rather it is to ensure Ontario is prepared for the energy market in 2025 and beyond, Thibeault said.