Out of control electricity costs cannot go on

By MPP Toby Barrett

For years, I have been railing against the high cost of electricity – full disclosure, I heat with hydro which means I go through 10 to 20 cords of wood a winter. Ontario now has the fastest-rising electricity costs in North America, and the highest rates in Canada. This cannot go on.

We as Opposition have proposed measures to lower the average hydro bill an additional 12 per cent on top off the existing 25 per cent reduction.

The annual Hydro One dividend should be rebated to ratepayers instead of using the $350 million a year for government projects. Conservation programs are worthwhile but they should be funded from general revenues.

Under the Green Energy Act, Feed-in Tariff (FIT) contracts have led to exorbitant subsidies for generating power that is simply not needed or could have been generated in other less expensive ways. We must use every legal and feasible opportunity to renegotiate or exit contracts at every contract breach, whether it be missed operational deadlines or permit violations.

Where feasible, we must walk away from committed capacity contracts that have cancellation benefits, like pre-notice to proceed contracts that were struck under the Green Energy Act, thus avoiding already scheduled rate increases.

The Smart Meter Charge is intended to pay for the province’s data centre, although the Auditor General has found that 812,000 of the 4.8 million homes with smart meters have not transmitted any data. This smart meter charge – at $1 billion over budget — should come off immediately.

Ontario ratepayers are now paying for a CEO who makes over $4 million a year. That’s six times what the old CEO at Hydro One used to make. We must reign in exorbitant executive salaries at both Hydro One and OPG.

The CD Howe Institute charges Green Energy Act policies have “had a dramatic impact on electricity costs in the province, but they have generated very limited environmental benefits and have had a negligible-to-negative effect on economic growth and employment.” As we’ve been saying since its inception, it’s time to repeal the Green Energy Act.

Green energy is a good thing, but paying unaffordable rates for power we don’t need, and forcing projects on unwilling host municipalities is wrong. As we have said many times in Opposition, we will restore local planning authority over wind and solar and force government to present the environmental impact of their decisions.

Energy planning decisions in Ontario are made by political staff instead of by the energy experts at the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO). Any future long-term energy plans must be brought before a legislative committee to be studied in depth, in public, and with the Minister of Energy and the expert staff at IESO and other core agencies required to give advice or explain their decisions.

Ontario’s IESO must be required to report on potential options – rooted in evidence – to reduce the amount of hydroelectric power the province wastes annually.

The Ontario Energy Board must be reformed to reduce red tape, drive costs out of the system, and create a flexible regulatory body.

We should proceed with nuclear refurbishment in Ontario and keep Pickering Nuclear Generating Station open until 2024.

Fourteen years of mismanagement, recklessness, and politically-driven decisions have left families, seniors and business owners paying more. This cannot go on.

Toby Barrett is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk