Conserving energy in Ontario? That’ll cost you…

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Use it at night and pay big; use it in the day and pay more!

Toronto Hydro and Hydro One want more money—because we conserve!

Not everybody saves their hydro bills, but I do, and what a surprise! I have proof Toronto Hydro wants even more money from us ratepayers, perhaps to ensure that they continue to make above market profits to continue paying large dividends to their owners (the City of Toronto) and to protect (and increase?) the bonuses paid to executives.

I recently compared my Toronto Hydro bill of July 16, 2014 to the bill for July 25, 2011.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that our consumption had fallen by 760 kWh, or 19.1%.

Surely we would be rewarded for conservation. Alas, no: the bill was actually $60.33 (12.5%) higher than our three-year old bill.

In fact, the per/kWh rate increased 39.1% in just three years for Toronto Hydro customers, increases presumably blessed by the Ontario Energy Board (OEB), the regulatory body that oversees the sector.

It turns out that the OEB is a fan of inclusiveness and recently ran an idea up the flagpole that would do away with the per/kWh charge for the “delivery” portion of our electricity bills.  This was described by John Spears in the Toronto Star on June 17, 2014: “ Householders should pay their local hydro utility a fixed monthly amount for electricity delivery, no matter how much power they use, a draft report by the Ontario Energy Board proposes.”

Apparently, a review process started in late 2012  and a number of parties submitted views, but the OEB only offered three choices:

  1. A single monthly charge which is the same for all consumers within the rate class;
  2. A fixed monthly charge with the size of the charge based on the size of the electrical connection;  and
  3. A fixed monthly charge where the size of the charge is based on use during peak hours.

The local distribution companies loved  number 1; the submission from Hydro One outlined the effect on their customers which would hit the lowest user to the worst extent.  Some of the price increases projected would increase costs by over 400% for the lowest users but decrease costs for the larger consumers penalizing the most vulnerable.  The CLD (Coalition of Large Distributors) also support  option 1, noting: “In this regard, Proposal 1 represents the most easily implemented of the three options. The CLD believes that in order for a fixed rate design to achieve the Board’s goal of providing consumers with tools for managing their costs, consumer education and bill-redesign are critical success factors.”

Based on the results, providing ratepayers with “ tools for managing” our costs simply costs us more!

The LDCs generally loved the OEB’s concept but dissenters were also evident as several groups opposed it and suggested that the “conservation” push evident for so many years under the Liberal “rule” was in jeopardy.

“Conservation” also reminded me of an article jointly published with Scott Luft on Energy Probe which, coincidentally, occurred almost three years ago.  The article articulated the cost of  “conservation” and contained this quote from former Ontario Premier, Dalton McGuinty: “Our government will make it possible for Ontarians in every home, business and government office to save energy, save their hard-earned money and save our environment … Smart meters, together with more flexible pricing, would allow Ontarians to save money if they run appliances in off-peak hours.”

It now appears that saving our “hard-earned money” has absolutely nothing to do with “conservation” despite the Liberal government and unbridled endorsement from the Environmental Commissioner, Gord Miller.

Should this OEB “one-size-fits-all” idea proceed, we should expect rates to head higher with the benefits flowing to large consumers at the expense of the small ones.

Could be a gain for the marijuana “grow-ops” as they seem to have suffered from high power rates along with Ontario’s legitimate businesses, as noted in a recent Global News report!

Building Ontario “up,” says Kathleen Wynne and her government; I guess that means, starting with higher bills for everyone.

Parker Gallant,

July 30, 2014

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent Wind Concerns Ontario policy.


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