Bill George Jr. and Brian Gilroy have written a letter on behalf of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association (OFVGA) to comment on the province’s industrial electricity pricing consultation.
"The OFVGA is supportive of the goal to achieve a dynamic energy sector that balances business energy needs with competitive pricing and necessary infrastructure improvements", they write.
They do issue a warning: "For greenhouse vegetable operations, energy represents one of the top two operating costs. The lack of electricity infrastructure or untenable electricity prices can be the tipping point for whether greenhouse operations expand in Ontario or abroad, which can lead to permanent loss of economic development opportunities."
"Many greenhouse vegetable operations are now successful at benefitting from the Industrial Conservation Initiative (ICI). However, competitiveness is threatened when operators must pay Class B electricity prices while consuming electricity at Class A levels on their way to becoming eligible to participate in the ICI", they further point out in the letter.
According to the letter, OFVGA believes that Ontario’s electricity market would benefit from the following changes:
- Allow more grid-connected, net-metered combined heat and power where new capacity is needed; greenhouse operations are the ideal location due to their need for heat, electricity and CO2.
- Expedite environmental assessments for electricity generation, transmission and distribution.
- Provide demand response benefits to Class B customers, who have already maximized energy efficiency opportunities and are left with little opportunity for improvement.
- Use of targeted electricity programs that use competitive evaluation processes that exchange preferential electricity prices and/or infrastructure development for growth and job creation investment commitments.
- Use of targeted electricity programs aimed at consumption of off-peak electricity, such as for greenhouses with supplemental lighting that tend to use electricity during cold and dark winter months in the morning and evening, when Ontario is known to export electricity.
- Delivery charges should be paid equitably between urban and rural industrial electricity customers. Most agricultural electricity customers must be in rural areas and should not be penalized for doing so.
- Incentives to increase the adoption of certain energy efficiency technologies, especially while they are in their infancy, to help offset significant capital costs.
"Although not a key component of this consultation, the OFVGA would be remiss if the issue of infrastructure capacity was not mentioned. Capacity for electricity is stretched to its limits in the Leamington-Kingsville area, which is restraining growth opportunities for greenhouse vegetable production. In addition, the lack of three-phase hydro is making other fruit and vegetable farmers less competitive", the OFVGA representatives also point out.