The two-pronged plug of high electricity prices

By MPP Toby Barrett

High electricity prices are a two-pronged plug. Not only do higher prices consume people’s expendable income, but they also suffocate our business and industrial sectors.

Those with air conditioning find some comfort from this summer’s heat and humidity but many are finding that comfort displaced with shock when they open their electricity bills. Prices for the electricity portion on your bill now range from 6.7 cents/kWh to 12.4 cents/kWh at peak time. There has been a significant increase from the 4.3 cents/KWh in place when the present government took office in 2003. But that is just for today’s actual electricity! Add to that distribution charges, debt retirement, HST and your electricity bill skyrockets. Affordable energy is a cornerstone of economic growth. Provinces that have taken steps to assure a steady supply of power at fair rates are more attractive to new industry and better equipped to retain those already there. Provinces like Ontario, where power rates are being driven up by expensive renewable energy subsidies are not. If we are to bring back jobs we must replace the subsidy program for wind and solar projects with an energy policy based on what is best for the economy. We must establish a new power rate for manufacturing and resource-based industry that is competitive with neighbouring provinces and states.

Ontario’s peak demand has dropped almost six per cent over the past five years. However, the Green Energy Act decrees all the expensive, subsidized power from wind towers must be used before using more economical power from sources such as hydro dams. The news gets worse. An independent analysis predicts a further 46 to 58 per cent increase by 2016 – a prediction that doesn’t include the possible impacts from the cancellations of gas plants in Mississauga and Oakville at a cost of at least $600 million.

There has been little talk about where the money to pay for these squandered political decisions will come from. The end payer is likely to be every electricity ratepayer and taxpayer in Ontario.

The Fraser Institute concluded industrial wind turbines are 10 times more expensive than installing pollution-control equipment on existing coal plants. It also found there will be no meaningful reduction in air pollution and the “green energy jobs” are not a reality.

On July 15, one of the hottest days of the summer, wind power was basically non-existent and Nanticoke coal saved the day. According to the government’s own figures, less than one per cent of the power came from wind while nine per cent was sourced from coal.

To be more specific, the Independent Electricity Market Operator’s web site showed between 10a.m. and 11 a.m., the power mix feeding into the grid was: nuclear 11,720 Megawatts, hydro 4,031, gas 4,579, coal 1,979 and wind 3. Also of note, is the hourly price was 3.17 cents and the global adjustment to help pay the cost of green energy was 7.38 cents for a total of 10.5 cents. This is about two cents less than the hourly peak rate on your bill.

High electricity prices have become truly a two-prong hit, affecting not only consumers, but also our economy through their impact on business and industry. We must seek alternatives to change the electricity market and save consumers and business some money.