People are having trouble paying for energy

“All my pension goes to pay my electricity” – constituent

By MPP Toby Barrett
With Ontario boasting the highest energy prices in North America, quite honestly I don’t know how some people get by.

When people bring their electricity bills into my office, it provides a line-by-line window on just how difficult it has become to pay the bills.

Recently I met with a couple who live in a modest 790 square foot house – they heat with one electric space heater, have been wearing heavy sweaters all winter and are doing absolutely everything they can to keep costs down. But their hydro bill for January was $641.67 — $233.89 of which was delivery charge.

During the meeting I was told: “All my pension goes to pay my electricity.”

Nowadays if you can’t afford your electricity, in many cases, you don’t have the option of paying interest or getting caught up later – your service is simply shut off. To have service reconnected is often hundreds of dollars. If someone can’t afford their bills in the first place how will they ever be able to pay exorbitant fees for reconnection?

Apart from closing down cheap coal generation, there are many reasons why hydro has skyrocketed.

For example, the Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) Program pays out massive subsidies for wind and solar contracts to produce power we don’t need. This continues to drive up the cost of electricity which rose by 26 per cent between 2008 and 2010 – projected to rise another 46 per cent by the end of this year.

The FIT Program, with its overly-generous payments, will cost taxpayers $4.4 billion more than the previous Standard Offer Program.

Wind generators operate at 28 per cent capacity and their output is out of phase with electricity demand during certain times of the day.

You can’t store electricity, so we pay the U.S. and Quebec to take the surplus power off our hands. We’ve paid them $1.8 billion over the past six years. Their industries use this cheap power to compete even harder with our manufacturers, and so the downward spiral continues.

If you’re a large user, look for the words ‘Global Adjustment’ on your hydro bill. Simply put, Global Adjustment covers the spread between market price and guaranteed price paid to generators, plus the cost of paying standby natural gas plants not to produce electricity, as well as paying for conservation programs. One North Bay manufacturer had a Global Adjustment — nonexistent on their 2009 hydro bills — of $1,700 on their electricity charge of $1,400 for that month. The Global Adjustment is expected to increase tenfold, from $700 million in 2006 to $8.1 billion in 2014. This will certainly cause more Ontario manufacturers to close up shop and move to cheaper locales.

Also, watch for the Smart Meter charges to hit home. The computer system cost $250 million, and the bill is now due.

Let’s not forget the cancellation of the Oakville power plant and cancelling, demolishing and relocating the Mississauga power plant. These cancellations were nothing more than political ‘seat savers’ for the last election and will cost taxpayers $1.1 billion.

In many ways the Green Energy Act put the desires of the renewable power industry ahead of the needs of people and Ontario businesses – a perfect formula for killing jobs and crippling consumers.