Ontario now has a full-blown electricity crisis

By MPP Toby Barrett

Skyrocketing electricity prices in Ontario have reached the point of crisis.

Since this government first took office, households in Ontario are now paying on average $1,000 more a year on their electricity bills. Out-of-control hydro costs have created unprecedented levels of energy poverty, and significantly reduced business investment and the jobs that come with it.

This summer, Ontario achieved a new dubious distinction. For years those of us in Opposition have speculated we have the highest energy rates in North America. But now it’s official: Ontario has the highest rates. Our low-density price is 25.9 cents/kw-hour. That now surpasses Hawaii, the previous record-holder at 22.6 cents/kw-hour.

Now we learn 17 per cent of Hydro One customers, or 225,952 people, have their Hydro One account in arrears. When that many people can’t pay their bill, it screams of crisis.

The province has pledged to provide a hydro rebate equivalent to the provincial share of the HST. This amounts to 36 cents/day, on average. This does absolutely nothing to remedy the root causes of our hydro crisis. The province is still generating heavily-subsidized power we don’t need; still paying the U.S. and Quebec to take our surplus power. And the solution is to borrow another billion dollars annually for taxpayers to subsidize ratepayers.

This is all about appearing to do something rather than actually doing something. It’s too little, too late. The paltry credit won’t help those who are already in arrears. It shows how out of touch this government is with people.

In her December 2015 annual report, the Auditor General revealed, “Most of the increase in what consumers pay for electricity has come from generation cost increases, which account for 60 per cent of the overall cost of electricity. Generation costs have increased by 74 per cent over the last decade.” She went on to say, “Electricity consumers have already paid a total of $37 billion, and they are expected to pay another $133 billion in Global Adjustment fees from 2015 to 2031.”

Despite the government’s talking points, we know signing contracts for power we don’t need is what caused, and continues to cause, electricity bills to skyrocket.

Premier Wynne has recently admitted this energy procurement system was a disaster, and has promised to stop signing renewable contracts. Unfortunately, the damage is already done.

The Independent Electricity System Operator’s (IESO) long-term outlook confirms the cost of delivering electricity has skyrocketed by $5 billion over the past decade – a 32 per cent hike. The IESO notes a drop in overall energy demand, which has driven up the average unit cost of electricity.

The outlook also illustrates a startling drop in industrial energy use as companies have either cut production or moved out of Ontario. Recall that Ontario has lost 350,000 manufacturing jobs over the past decade.

And now we learn Ontario’s electricity is not only overpriced – it’s unreliable. Last year, the province had 135 electricity outages, or more than BC, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and Alberta combined.

There is a crisis in our electricity sector. We have been saying this for years – now it’s confirmed. As a result, we have energy poverty today, and given the loss of energy-dependent manufacturing jobs, we will see continued poverty tomorrow.

Consider signing my petition at https://tobybarrett.com/electricity-poverty/