Ontario engineers have taken what they say is an unprecedented step in sending an open protest letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne over the provincial government’s failure to draw upon their professional expertise as it rolls out a major new climate change policy.

Sandro Peruzza, CEO of the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers, said the decision to send the letter earlier this month comes after the group was “ignored” in its effort to weigh in on how the province can shift to green energy sources without major impact to the electric power market and the local economy. The final straw was the government’s refusal to include an engineer among those who drafted Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan, released June 8. It includes a cap-and-trade system to cut carbon emissions.

“As far as I know in recent history, this is the first time we have done something this extreme,” says Peruzza. But, he adds, “they are ignoring us pretty much right now—we have to get vocal.” At issue is not policy direction, but implementation. Peruzza said the engineers favor cap-and-trade but fear it is under-analyzed, based on how Ontario’s 2009 Green Energy Act was implemented. Its emissions cuts have come at the cost of rising electric rates and manufacturing job losses, he says.

The province’s electric grid was designed to operate at a minimum cost, with little storage capacity for excess energy. Solar and wind power coming into the system have triggered overcapacity, “meaning it must be curtailed—essentially wasted—and sold significantly below its total cost of production to neighboring jurisdictions,” says the letter.

Peruzza says one provincial official told him, in explaining why no engineer was on the panel, that there was already on architect on board. “The shortcomings of policy decisions in [the previous law] underscore the need for engineers to be engaged,” says the letter, which Peruzza sees as a springboard for getting provincial engineers more involved politically. 

An energy ministry spokesman did not respond to ENR’s request for comment.