The only real hydro bill relief is to get costs down: WCO
Rural residents and farm owners attended a meeting in Goderich with the Hydro One Ombudsman and told her hydro bills have to come down.
January 25, 2017
The Hydro One Ombudsman Fiona Crean recently attended a meeting in Goderich, hosted by MPP Lisa Thompson where she heard a lot of stories from Ontario’s farmers about hydro bills, and the government’s electricity policies.
Time of Use rates for power make no sense for agricultural operations, she was told. Power use is driven by requirements — if the weather is hot, barns must be ventilated or livestock will be lost. And growers must harvest crops when they are ready, not when it might be cheaper to run equipment.
People in agriculture are being harmed by the increasing electricity bills and are now choosing other options to run their operations. Grain growers are converting their drying equipment to propane or natural gas, and many are converting or supplementing their home heating with wood. These moves run counter to the government’s policy goal to get off fossil fuel use.
Other residents commented on the unfairness of the low-density residential rates and delivery charges.
The Hydro One vice-president of Customer Relations also attending that day had some interesting responses: people just don’t “understand” their electricity bills, Warren Lister said, and relief is coming for low-density customers. He also said that now, an “independent” Hydro One represents its customers to government.
Here’s the message Hydro One should give the Wynne government: you must get costs down.
While the Energy Minister proudly claims that Ontario is now a “net exporter” of power because we have a surplus, what he fails to explain is that we pay a premium price for renewable energy, which is usually produced out of phase with demand, and we then sell it off at a significant discount. This past November, for instance, Ontario bought power for $169 million, then sold it for a “profit” of $21 million. Ontario’s electricity customers picked up the difference of $147 million – that is a cost that we must reduce.
It’s worth noting too, that the surplus electricity sold last November would have powered half of Ontario’s customers’ homes for the month.
The Minister has promised rate relief, including change for rural residents living in low-density areas, via the RRRPP or Rural or Remote Electricity Rate Protection Program. True, reducing rural customers’ bills might add up to several hundred dollars a year, but where is the money for the $116-million cost coming from? It, like the other costs, is being added to your bill in the regulatory line.
Similarly, the Ontario Electricity Support Program or OESP is being paid for by electricity customers.
Meanwhile, the government gave out contracts last year for five more large-scale wind power projects, for power we don’t need, that will cost ratepayers over $3 billion over 20 years. That cost has yet to hit our electricity bills.
Ironically, the government’s green energy program isn’t even achieving its stated goals. According to the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers, wind power has “relatively little economic value” and because of its intermittent nature it needs back-up from natural gas, which means more fossil fuel use for power, not less.
Rather than telling us we don’t “understand” our bills, and spending money on costly conservation advertising that claims to save us money, the Ontario government needs to take bold steps to get costs down. That means cancelling wind power contracts awarded in 2016, cancelling the entire wind power procurement program, and taking a hard look at all other contracts to determine whether buying them out is a better option than losing millions selling surplus power off cheap.
Parker Gallant is a former international banker who now analyzes Ontario’s electricity sector. He is vice-president of Wind Concerns Ontario.