The Case for a Public Green Power Company

While the world burns, conservative governments in both Alberta and Ontario continue to spend billions hiding and protecting their failed hydro deregulation schemes. This is money that should be spent combatting the climate crisis.

If we are going to get serious about fighting the climate crisis effectively, then the profit motive must be removed. It is time to form the Ontario Green Power Authority, (or OGPA). A company that would build, own, and oversee conservation measures and green power production, transmission, and distribution. Its mandate is the public interest and “power at-cost,” without the multiple layers of profit that now exist. The magnitude of the public infrastructure build that is required to transition over to electric vehicles is massive. Electricity is very much like water, a necessity of life. It was a terrible mistake by a previous conservative government to turn it into a for-profit commodity.

Creating a public green power company is not a radical idea. In May 2023, New York State law makers passed a law called the Build Public renewables Act. This law authorizes the New York Power Authority, the largest state public power authority in the US, to build renewable energy projects and to help reach the state’s climate goals. In Europe nine of the top ten countries leading the energy transition to renewables all have one thing in common: a publicly owned renewable energy company driving the process.

In Australia, the states of Queensland and Victoria have public green power companies.

The record of Public Power in Ontario is 94 years of low and stable rates.

Public Hydro in a Time of Climate Crisis

It is important to note that politicians did not sell Hydro during World Wars or during the Great Depression. They kept that public asset to help us get out of those terrible times, and this is the model we need now to help us get out of the climate crisis. Conservation is the cheapest, fastest, and cleanest way to solve our electricity and climate change problems. Conservation measures can be immediately implemented and are one-tenth the cost of building very expensive nuclear power plants.

Conservation is key to the climate crisis fight. There are no real conservation measures now in for-profit corporate Ontario because real conservation reduces demand, reduces the market price, and reduces profits. Private owners will fight real conservation measures tooth and nail, and that is one of the main reasons why the profit motive must be removed from green power.

It is much easier to convince local people to put up windmills and solar farms if they are going to benefit from the at-cost power and local employment that will be required. More importantly, there are multiple benefits from conservation. Beyond ensuring a stable supply of electricity, an effective energy efficiency and conservation program will:

  1. Help clean up our air.
  2. Put us on the road to meeting our CO2 Kyoto and Paris accord targets.
  3. Create good paying jobs in Ontario.
  4. Prevent private generators from taking advantage of scarce supply to manipulate rates artificially in the electricity market.

The OGPA would be given the authority to bring in conservation initiatives.

Market Caused Crisis

Just as California’s Enron market-created electricity crisis in 2000 from privatization, the Conservatives imported an Enron-designed electricity market here which to this day is still the main problem costing billions per year. The Ontario Government Financial Accountability Office has shown that by the end of 2025, Premier Doug Ford will have spent over $47-billion artificially lowering high electricity market rates. Those billions should have gone to fund initiatives on the climate crisis fight. What would those initiatives look like?

Here are a few initiatives. We should adopt California’s successful solution. Regulate rates and institute the 20/20 plan. Cut your use by 20 percent and we will cut your bill by another 20 percent for 40 percent savings. Give out LED light bulbs and give rebates for heat pumps and other measures, to make your home energy efficient. In the affordability crisis that now exists, the public would eagerly take up these initiatives!

We already have a stark example of why the profit motive must be removed from green power and renewables. Sadly, the 2009 Green Energy and Green Economy Act in Ontario was a complete failure because it was nothing more than a license for private green energy producers to print money with its high ‘feed-in’ tariff rates for renewable energy producers. As is already shown around the world, green power production and conservation go hand-in-hand with a publicly built and owned green energy company. The wind blows and the sun shines for free, but allowing private companies to maximize profits off of that fact is ludicrous. We simply cannot allow them to sell power from private green power and renewables into their electricity market playground where rates are so easily manipulated. Private owners will fight hard against the closing of the electricity market. But the market must be closed, and we must finally get on the pathway of harm reduction and harm elimination.

The time for at-cost public power has come again. The public and small business will never accept the inflated cost of building the massive amount of infrastructure needed to transition over to electric vehicles under a for-profit system.

The levers of publicly owned hydro are critical levers to use for both the economy and the climate crisis. To effectively fight the climate crisis, we must form a public green energy and conservation company as soon as possible.

Our survival depends on it. •

Paul Kahnert was a Toronto Hydro worker and CUPE Local One member for 33 years. He was a spokesperson for the Ontario Electricity Coalition from 2001 to 2010. The Ontario Electricity Coalition and its members CEP and CUPE stopped the sale of Hydro One in a Province wide campaign and court case in the Spring of 2002. He can be contacted at