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Letter to Kelvin Goertzen, MLA

October 29, 2009

 Kelvin Goertzen

MLA Steinbach

Almost half the people present  at the Manitoba Hydro sponsored event “Building Communities with Sustainable Solutions” just over a week ago are  involved in our Initiative. Energy use and sustainable solutions is a topic of vital interest to us.  Because of this we are asking for a meeting with you to talk about, what we believe to be, mutual concerns.  We want to talk about our relative roles in addressing these concerns.

We want to commend you for the way you opened that event. You made several important points.  You explained why government needs to be involved in energy conservation and why it is important that we conserve resources for the benefit of our children.

We noted that nobody addressed the elephant in the room!  Manitobans waste energy at record levels because Manitoba has the lowest electricity rates in the world.  Manitobans waste energy because it is cheap.  I think we would agree that the attendance at the meeting was a shame.  Is it reasonable to assume that the poor attendance at the meeting reflects a lack of interest in this topic – and that lack of interest is the result of low energy prices.

Our Initiative sees energy pricing as a non-partisan issue, although you, as a politician, may disagree. I recall that not long ago, the Conservative party was critical of the Doer government for raiding Manitoba Hydro, when it was gong to use Hydro funds to cover some of its deficit.  That, in our view, was unfortunate partisanship.  Surely it would make more sense, and would be more responsible, for the Government of Manitoba to take more of its revenue from Hydro, rather than less.

Price controls and incentives always distort the market place and affect the decisions people make.  If this results in desirable behaviour, this is good –  but why artificially manipulate the price [of energy] if it results in undesirable behaviour – in this case increased energy use?  Manitoba Hydro (and the Manitoba Government) are setting the price of electricity at a rate that is encouraging Manitobans to use more and waste more.  Presumably the rationale for this pricing policy is that low energy prices are desirable to bring people and industry to Manitoba. But if incentives are necessary to attract people and industry to Manitoba, surely an incentive that encourages desirable behaviour would be preferable to one that encourages wasteful energy use..

If I heard correctly, individuals wishing to install the more sustainable heating system, would be able to recapture their capital investment in eight years.  But this was assuming that they would be taking advantage of no less than four government/hydro incentive programs.  I can only imagine the number of bureaucrats collecting salaries as they administer these four programs.  Surely a market driven incentive (higher energy prices) would be much cheaper to administer.

We await your response with respect to a meeting.