Energy minister in Peterborough Friday

Ontario Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault is making a stop in Peterborough on Friday as part of a swing through Ontario this week to defend the provincial government’s recent energy policy moves.

Thibeault is scheduled to attend a Peterborough Chamber of Commerce Power Lunch event from 11:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday at the Peterborough Golf and Country Club at 1030 Armour Rd. in the city’s northeast end.

Thibeault will speak at the luncheon and then hold a question and answer session with chamber members and guests.

He was scheduled to make stops Monday in Chatham and Aylmer in southwestern Ontario on his tour.

The ruling Ontario Liberals have been under pressure over skyrocketing electricity prices that had essentially doubled over a decade until the province moved to cut rates by 25 per cent starting July 1.

Last Tuesday, one of four companies lured to Ontario to set up green energy manufacturing plants under a multibillion-dollar deal between the province and Korean industrial giant Samsung, announced it’s closing its Tillsonburg plant. Siemens, which partnered with Samsung, said it’s laying off more than 200 workers immediately, and the rest of the 340 will be gone by January when the plant that makes blades for wind turbines closes.

Then, Vancouver-based think-tank the Fraser Institute reported Ontario’s increases in electricity prices have run more than double the national average over the past decade, heaping new fuel on the fire for opposition critics as the province heads into an election year.

A wave of sell-offs and mergers in the electrical business in Ontario, including takeovers by giant Hydro One, has reduced the number of municipal utilities in the province from hundreds a generation ago to dozens now. Hydro One has reached a deal to takeover Peterborough Distribution Inc., the poles and wires hydro distribution arm of City of Peterborough-owned Peterborough Utilities.

After Siemens announced the Tillsonburg plant closing, Thibeault said he’s confident green energy will remain a key part of the Ontario economy and its energy supply.

The company cited dried-up orders and industry demands for larger blades than it can’t produce as factors in the closing.

Critics contend that with Ontario no longer paying hefty subsidies for green energy, and suspending large purchases of more power, such manufacturing jobs are threatened.

NOTE: Tickets to the luncheon are $25 for chamber members and $35 for non-members. They can be purchased online at http://web.peterboroughchamber.ca/events/Power-Lunch-with-the-Minister-of-Energy-588/details.

— with files from Postmedia Network

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