By Antonella Artuso, Toronto Sun ( May 1, 2016) – Power to the people comes with an ever steeper price. Ontario electricity rates continue to surge in an upward trend that is far easier to predict than the wind gusts necessary to drive the province’s renewable energy turbines.
As a result of increases that kicked in May 1, the off-peak rate (weekends and holidays, and weekdays 7 p.m.-7 a.m.) is now 8.7 cents per kWh, the mid-peak rate (weekdays 7 a.m.-11 a.m. and 5 p.m.-7 p.m.) is 13.2 cents per kWh, and the on-peak charge (weekdays 11 a.m.-5 p.m.) is now 18 cents per kWh — the highest price ever for electricity under time-of-use (TOU) pricing in Ontario.
For an average home, that’s an increase on the electricity line of the bill of $37.56 a year — on top of December’s $53.04 bump.
Progressive Conservative energy critic John Yakabuski said the current on-peak charge of 18 cents per kWh is a 418% increase of the price when the Liberals first took office in 2003.
The first TOU rate set in 2006 charged 3.5 cents per kWh for weekend and overnight use, 7.5 cents per kWh for mid-peak use, and 10.5 cents per kWh for on-peak use, which is usually the middle of the day during the summer and just before and after the regular workday in the winter.
But the hydro bill is made up of many parts.
This year, Toronto Hydro customers were hit with an additional $80.52-a-year increase in their distribution rates, too.
The debt retirement fee came off residential bills finally, but so did the 10% break — the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit — so overall the average person pays more.
A new program to help low-income people who struggle with high hydro costs was added to everyone else’s bill.
The Toronto Sun asked Ontario Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli and opposition party critics to explain why they think electricity prices keep rising and if it will ever taper off — let alone go down.
Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli
“Over the past 10 years, Ontario has taken a dirty, unreliable electricity system and made it clean — and one we can all count on. After years of neglect under the previous PC government, we no longer burn coal to create power, which was the source of smog days and was costing us $4.4 billion annually in health-care expenses, and we no longer need to fear the blackouts and brownouts that hurt Ontario’s economy.”
“Transforming and rebuilding Ontario’s electricity system has come at a cost, but fortunately our bills are increasing slower than they are in neighbouring jurisdictions, and slower than we predicted they would in our 2013 Long-Term Energy Plan.”
“We recognize that the cost of these investments can be difficult for families most in need, particularly low-income families or seniors on a fixed income, who often pay a higher share of their income towards the bill. That’s why we took action and launched the Ontario Electricity Support Program and removed the Debt Retirement Charge for residential users on Jan. 1, 2016, which is saving low-income families nearly $60 a month. And it’s why we provide the Ontario Energy and Property Tax Credit, the saveONenergy Home Assistance Program, and the Northern Ontario Energy Credit — which can save families an additional $80 a month.”
“While it’s easy for the opposition and other critics to make disingenuous claims about our electricity system, the reality is that we have a responsible plan that delivers clean, reliable power — they don’t.”
NDP energy critic Peter Tabuns
(On privatizing Hydro One and other parts of the electricity system)
“We’re paying profit now for electricity somewhere in the range of $750 million to $1 billion a year that we didn’t use to pay before the privatization of hydro generation that was started under the Tories and then continued by the Liberals.”
(On the impact of building guaranteed private profit into system)
“When Xstrata left Timmins to go to Quebec, they were a big power user. And when they left the cost of the wires that took power to their mine and the generation that made power for their operation had to be covered by everyone else. And as people find their bills are higher, they’re cutting their use because they’re trying to protect themselves from higher bills, and that means that the system is supported by less and less demand. That’s a dynamic that’s going to become a bigger and bigger factor in the years to come.”
(On government’s continuing to sign private power contracts when it’s frequently forced to sell it at a loss on the open market)
“We’ve got all kinds of power. We don’t need to be taking these mostly gas-fired power plants and signing new contracts with them. Their whole strategy just leads (prices) to the stratosphere, shooting way out of sight.”
Progressive Conservative critic John Yakabuski
(On whether these prices are inevitable)
“There’s only one thing that drives price increases and that’s government decisions when it comes to electricity procurement. And that has been happening since the inception of the Green Energy Act. They’ve gone the Cadillac route when it comes to pricing but not delivering the product that we could be getting at far lower rates. Even the auditor general said we paid $9.2 billion more for energy than we should have under the Green Energy Act.”
(On bypassing opportunities to get water-powered hydro because system oversupplied)
“OPG is spilling millions of dollars of water a day not turning the turbines because we’re taking wind (power) into the system. We shouldn’t be taking this wind unless we’ve exhausted our supply of free water passing by our turbines.”
(On coal and wind)
”There’s no question that there’s a cost associated with moving away from coal. But that is only a portion of what they’ve done. They have not only signed these massively overpriced contracts for particularly wind because of the amount of them and the number of megawatts, but they also built a whole lot of gas plants to back up the wind when it doesn’t blow. It’s all designed around their energy policies that have driven up the price of power. When you’re giving it away, or paying somebody to take it, you’re losing money and this goes onto the backs of the energy consumers who are paying the bill today. And that’s going to continue.”
Current Electricity Generation Capacity
- Nuclear: 13,014 MW
- Gas: 9,907 MW
- Hydro (water): 8,841 MW
- Solar: 2,078 MW
- Wind: 3,908 MW
- Bio: 599 MW
Projected Electricity Generation Capacity by 2020
- Nuclear: 11,311 MW
- Gas: 10,868 MW
- Hydro (water): 9,024 MW
- Solar: 3,851 MW
- Wind: 5,681 MW
- Bio: 659 MW
(Source: Independent Electricity System Operator)