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DT Vollmer

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The Ontario Government recently introduced the Keeping Ontario Energy Costs Down Act, 2024 (the Act). If passed, the Act will provide the government with significant new authority to influence or direct fundamental questions in future leave to construct applications that come before the Ontario Energy Board (the OEB or Board). In addition, the Act would reverse aspects of a December 21, 2023, decision by the Ontario Energy Board  relating to Enbridge Gas Inc.’s (Enbridge) application for approval of its natural gas rates for the period starting January 1, 2024 (the Enbridge Decision). This bulletin provides key details of the Enbridge Decision and outlines the significant proposed amendments of the Act. The Enbridge Decision, which represents the focal point for much of the government’s statements concerning the Act, arises from a complex regulatory proceeding lasting more than one year, involving approximately one month of hearings and thousands of pages of evidence, and implicating the participation of large numbers of intervenors and expert witnesses. The aspect of the Enbridge Decision that has attracted the most public attention was the OEB’s decision to eliminate Enbridge’s ability to recover the cost of new customer connections to the existing gas network over a 40-year period (i.e., revenue or amortization horizon), meaning those costs would now be recovered upfront. These costs are estimated at approximately $4,412 (weighted average of new construction and existing homes in the “Enbridge Gas Distribution” rate zone). The majority decision’s rationale was based on the need to facilitate an informed choice concerning the full lifetime cost of available energy options and to completely mitigate the stranded asset cost risk. The existing 40-year recovery period attracted criticism from certain parties intervening in the proceedings on the basis that, among others, it does not adequately account for the risk that the ongoing energy transition may result in natural gas assets being replaced over a shorter period, which…

The Council of the EU (the Council) and the European Parliament reached a provisional political agreement (the Agreement) earlier this week on a regulation to establish the Carbon Removals Certification Framework (CRCF), the first EU-level certification framework for permanent carbon removals. The CRCF is a voluntary framework intended to facilitate deployment of high-quality carbon removal and soil emission reduction activities in the EU, in support of net-zero by 2050. The Agreement follows the European Commission’s (the Commission’s) regulatory proposal for the CRCF (released December 2, 2022) and the Council’s mandate for negotiations with the European Parliament (released November 17, 2023). The European Parliament and Council now need to formally approve the Agreement. Once this process is completed, the new legislation will be published in the Official Journal and enter into force. We anticipate that the CRCF will facilitate integration of carbon dioxide removals into the EU’s broader package of climate policies and eventually allow for market-based trading of CRCF-certified units. CRCF certification may also serve as an integrity benchmark for CDRs developed for the voluntary carbon market. This bulletin briefly summarizes the main elements of the Agreement. Scope of activities. The CRCF will use an “open definition” of carbon removals, in line with the IPCC and which only covers atmospheric or biogenic carbon removals. It will cover the following carbon removal and emission reduction activities and differentiate between four corresponding unit types: permanent carbon removal (storing atmospheric or biogenic carbon for several centuries); temporary carbon storage in long-lasting products (such as wood-based construction products) of a duration of at least 35 years and that can be monitored on-site during the entire monitoring period; temporary carbon storage from carbon farming (e.g., restoring forests and soil, wetland management, seagrass meadows) of a duration of at least 5 years; and soil emission reduction (from…

Ontario Premier Doug Ford yesterday announced that the government intends to introduce legislation next week that would require a referendum before any new provincial carbon pricing system could be implemented in the province. The measure is expected to be part of new legislation, the “Get It Done Act” (the Act), which is set to be tabled in the upcoming legislative session starting February 20, 2024. A carbon pricing referendum would only apply to proposed provincial measures and not the federal backstop carbon pricing system under the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act (GGPPA) that went into effect in Ontario after the provincial government cancelled Ontario’s cap-and-trade system. Premier Ford noted that the aim of the Act is to give voters a direct say over any new provincial carbon tax, cap-and-trade system, or other carbon pricing program, and emphasized the importance of keeping costs low for residents and businesses. The Act is expected to include a host of measures that build on the government’s commitments to streamline approvals for major infrastructure projects and housing, lower costs for people and businesses, and support economic growth. Ontario’s Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy (the Minister) stated that the government made a promise to fight the federal fuel charge (see our bulletin on the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision upholding the constitutionality of the GGPPA here) and that it would continue to lead by example by “giving Ontarians certainty that carbon pricing on the backs of taxpayers is not the way forward.” The Minister suggested that “[a]ny new provincial carbon tax is unacceptable for Ontario residents who are seeing their hard-earned dollars stretched further than ever.”  The provincial government also called on the federal government to expand the temporary pause on the application of the federal fuel charge for home heating or to eliminate the federal carbon fuel charge entirely.   For further information or to discuss the contents…

Ontario’s Electrification and Energy Transition Panel (the Panel) has released its final report entitled Ontario’s Clean Energy Opportunity: Report of the Electrification and Energy Transition Panel (the Report). The Panel was established by the Government of Ontario to advise on opportunities for Ontario’s energy sector and identify strategic opportunities and planning reforms to help Ontario’s economy prepare for electrification and the energy transition. The Report provides a comprehensive roadmap for Ontario’s transition to a clean energy economy, emphasizing strategic planning, collaboration, innovation, and the crucial role of Indigenous partnerships.  This bulletin briefly highlights the key findings of the report and outlines the Panel’s key recommendations. Planning for electrification and the energy transition. The Report underscores the urgent and transformative shift in the global energy landscape, emphasizing the need to address climate change and support technological advancements. For example, the Report notes that Ontario faces a significant challenge regarding the future of natural gas, including increasing uncertainty about the feasibility of decarbonizing the natural gas grid and growing doubt about replacing large quantities of natural gas in a cost-effective way with cleaner alternatives such as renewable natural gas (RNG) or hydrogen. Key recommendations include: Recommendation 1 suggests that the provincial government should develop and communicate a commitment and associated policy principles for achieving a clean energy economy for Ontario by 2050 in order to provide clear direction for Ontario’s energy and economic future. Recommendation 3 provides that the provincial government should continue to seek alignment and coordination of clean energy economy objectives, standards, and policies with other governments (within and outside Canada) whenever practical and consistent with the province’s economic and policy interests. Recommendation 6 provides that in order to provide clarity to utilities, investors, and customers, the Ministry of Energy (the Ministry) should provide policy direction on the role of natural gas in Ontario’s future energy system as…

Canada Growth Fund (CGF) today announced that it has completed its first transaction under its mandate to use nearly half of its $15B budget for carbon contracts for difference (CCfDs) and offtake agreements. CGF is the federal agency (a subsidiary of Canada Development Investment Corporation) with a mandate to “build a portfolio of investments that catalyze substantial private sector investment in Canadian businesses and projects to help transform and grow Canada’s economy at speed and scale on the path to net-zero.” PSP Investments acts as the investment manager for CGF through a wholly-owned subsidiary. Via a hybrid security, CGF has agreed to invest $200M in Entropy Inc., a Calgary-based developer of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) projects. Alongside the investment, CGF and Entropy have entered into a “carbon credit offtake commitment” agreement (CCO) whereby CGF has committed to purchase up to 9M tonnes (up to 600K tonnes per annum (tpa) over a 15-year term) of TIER or equivalent carbon credits from Entropy projects. The initial project to benefit from the CCO is intended to be the Advantage Glacier Phase 2 project, drawing up to 185K tpa at an initial price of $86.50 per tonne, for a total of approximately 2.8M tonnes over the 15-year term. Upon successful deployment of the initial 600K tpa of CCO, CGF may make available a further 400K tpa of CCOs for additional Entropy CCS projects in Canada. This initial transaction notably appears to be in the form of an offtake agreement, rather than a contract for difference. The Globe and Mail reported that other project proponents, including larger oil and gas producers and members of the cement and chemical industries, have been attempting to negotiate contracts with the CGF at rates higher than the initial price of $86.50 per tonne agreed in this initial transaction. For further information or to…