Have you looked at your electricity bill lately?

By MPP Toby Barrett

Electricity bills are beginning to send shockwaves as ratepayers discuss the latest round of price hikes. Residents and businesses alike are being caught off guard.

Last April, we in Opposition cautioned that an Ontario Energy Board approved rate increase would lead to an annual $350- hike for the average Ontario hydro bill. Causing further concern is the fact that the increase could double once the province’s green energy subsidies are rolled out.

As Energy critic John Yakabuski noted, “It is reaching the point, not all at once but incrementally, just like a leaking faucet, that the sink is going to overflow.” Callsto my office indicate we’re all getting soaked.

What’s more concerning is that people are already seeing increases they can’t afford, and there are still more to come.

Since Spring the McGuinty government’s slate of electricity hikes include:

$5 per month on hydro bills by 2012 to pay for the $8 billion renewable energy plan,
8 per cent for the HST
15.7 per cent increase in 2011 and 9.8 per cent increase in 2012 from Hydro One
A 6.2 per cent increase from Ontario Power Generation.
a charge to help cover $53 million of the government’s conservation and green-energy program.
The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Association indicates things will only get worse, reporting power bills will grow by 6.7 to 8 per cent annually for the next five years. That means a household with a monthly bill of $130 today will be paying about $191 by 2015.

As former Executive Director of Energy Probe, Tom Adams put it recently, “You are going to get screwed, and it’s going to be painful.” Adams assigns much of the blame to Ontario’s Green Energy Act, calling government mandated generous payments for large green energy projects, “just outrageous.”

In acknowledging the unaffordable situation electricity rates are causing for residents, Energy Minister Brad Duguid admits government’s coal closure crusade and green energy goldrush shoulder much of the blame: “We know that these central investments in our electricity bills aren’t easy for Ontario families. We’re moving past dirty coal generation to a future of clean renewables….we recognize there is a cost to these measures.”

At payout rates of 80 cents per KWh for solar compared to about 6 cents per KWh for coal, even a first grader could tell that coal closure means rate hikes for the electricity user.

But Minister Duguid has no plan: “We’re in the process now of putting together our long-term energy plan. That will give us a better idea going forward as to what the more accurate cost estimates will be.”

While government crows about its reduction in coal use, the heatwave that has marked the summer of 2010 has seen Nanticoke’s coal burning units running full-tilt. Given that the province is still mired in an industry killing recession one wonders where the extra needed energy will come from if the economy turns around without any coal generators to rely upon.

As we stare down the barrel of McGuinty’s green energy gun, I join those across the province wondering if we can afford to buy government’s high-priced power.