Wynne defends Hydro One-Avista deal, hopes coal-free 'value system' will spread
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne speaks to reporters outside the Blackberry QNX facility in Kanata, ON. July 21, 2017.
Ted Raymond, Newstalk 580 CFRA
Published Friday, July 21, 2017 6:40PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, July 21, 2017 6:42PM EDT
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says she’s hopeful Hydro One’s purchase of the U.S.-based Avista Corp. will have a positive influence on energy infrastructure in the United States.
While speaking outside the Blackberry QNX facility in Kanata Friday, Wynne was asked about the $6.7 billion acquisition. Progressive Conservative Party leader Patrick Brown has called the merger “hypocritical” because Avista owns coal operations in Colstrip, Montana, and Wynne’s energy plan is coal-free.
“You won’t find another jurisdiction pretty much around the world that has gone as far, in terms of renewable clean energy, as Ontario,” Wynne told reporters. “So, I see this as a real validation of our opportunity to take that influence elsewhere. We are leading the way in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, in terms of cleaning up the air and having a clean electricity grid. This is great opportunity for that value system to be shared in another jurisdiction.”
Wynne says she had a conversation with Hydro One CEO Mayo Schmidt on Thursday, in which she expressed her hope that Ontario’s coal-free “value system” would be shared.
“In fact, the validation that came back is that that’s exactly one of the reasons that Avista was looking at this,” Wynne said.
“It’s great that in Ontario we’ve shut down all of our coal-fired plants,” Wynne added. “But we want to make sure that there’s an understanding, much more broadly that that can work, that that can lead to prosperity and better health outcomes. We want that to happen all over the world, not just here in Ontario.”
But it’s not all a bed of roses, according to the Fraser Institute. The right-wing think tank has been critical of the Ontario Liberals and their energy plan. In a report issued Thursday, the Fraser Institute blamed the phase-out of coal power as part of the reason the price of hydro in the province is so high, compared to other jurisdictions.
Hydro One has said the Avista deal will not affect rates.
Coal power is a hot issue in the United States. President Donald Trump campaigned partly on bringing back coal jobs to America and his pick for Ambassador to Canada, Kelly Knight Craft, is the wife of Kentucky coal billionaire Joe Craft.
Wynne was asked if she hoped the Hydro One deal would encourage Avista to either close the coal plant or divest itself of it.
“My hope is that we will see the kind of action that we’ve taken here in Ontario taken there, but in other places as well,” she said.
While there are plans to close two of the four coal-fired units in Colstrip, Montana by 2022, the other two units are considered more efficient, and are not slated for closure at this time.