Hydro – things you find out after the election

By MPP Toby Barrett

Two weeks after the last ballot was cast, we in Ontario learned of approvals for more electricity increases. The same day we also heard we may soon be paying the highest price for electricity in the developed world.
According to energy analyst Parker Gallant, and University of Guelph’s Glenn Fox, the McGuinty government’s wind and solar energy policies will cost about 40 per cent more than their own estimates.
Specifically, Gallant/Fox study states we could see our electricity bills rise 65 per cent by 2015 and 141 per cent by 2030. After first predicting they would hold the line at one per cent, government admitted a few months ago to increases of 46 per cent and 100 per cent!
Why the discrepancy? According to Gallant/Fox, a number of costs were omitted from the government’s green energy estimates. Excluded were costs like inflation, transmitting electricity from wind and solar facilities, the capital cost of turbines and the need for backup generation. For example, the study indicates costs for back-up generation to power up when the wind dies and the sun hides will come in at 9.6 billion instead of the predicted of $1.8 billion.
Rising costs are already taking their toll. Rates have risen by 75 per cent and we see businesses closing, industry heading south, and families struggling to pay the bills. Imagine the impact if the figures in the Gallant-Fox study are borne out. It’s hard to comprehend how businesses and family incomes will be able to afford life when their electricity bills hit the roof. How do businesses compete with those from jurisdictions where energy prices are much lower? How do families pay dramatically increasing energy bills?
The latest indication that we are seeing the Gallant-Fox predictions coming to fruition arrived last week with the post-election announcement through the Ontario Energy Board of an increase in rates. As of November 1st, residential and small business consumers will once again be paying more for their electricity use.
According to the Ontario Energy Board, peak power will cost 10.8 cents a kilowatt hour, while mid- and off-peak power will be 9.2 cents and 6.2 cents a kwh. I recall eight years ago as a government member we locked in electricity rates at 4.3 cents a kwh.

Those costs don’t include the additions of the Harmonized Sales Tax on our electricity bills – not to mention the cost of smart meters themselves. Many of those people and businesses working with smart-metered time of use pricing are unable to “shift” their energy use to “off-peak” times and are therefore hit again with higher cost.
Of course, locally, we know that we have, and continue, to pay the added price of job loss because Mr. McGuinty’s green-at-all-costs obsession. Government’s coal closure directive at Nanticoke OPG will be directly costing our area 400 jobs.
Given the concern – at times outright anger – I heard at the doors and at my office, the continued trend for further hydro increases is worrisome. The fact that we find out the bad news only days after the election raises concern over what further surprises may be in store.
As Opposition, it will be vital for members to work together to hold this government to account on the uncontrollable rise of electricity.