Wind Concerns Ontario is a province-wide advocacy organization whose mission is to provide information on the potential impact of industrial-scale wind power generation on the economy, human health, and the natural environment.
The 2,483 MW of rated capacity of wind generators reported by Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) in the past three days (October 6 to 8) generated 67,000 MWh (megawatt hours), or enough power for 7,000 average homes.
They just weren’t in Ontario.
The province exported over 145,000 MWh to New York, Michigan and elsewhere over those three days. The wind power developers were being paid $135/MWh for power that was surplus to our needs because demand was low. The price we received for our exports averaged $2.29/MWh on October 6, $1.88/MWh on October 7, and on October 8 we paid our neighbours $3.31/MWh to take our exports.
Not included in that price is the money paid to the wind power developers for “curtailed” generation.
Wind power tends to be produced out-of-phase with demand, or when we don’t need it (spring and fall and middle of the night). As a result, the HOEP (hourly Ontario energy price) has been driven down meaning those surplus exports represent a significant cost to the ratepayers of Ontario. The cost for just the wind exports in the past three days was in excess of $9 million. Add another $9 million for the other exported power, and it becomes $18 million. The latter doesn’t include the cost of the curtailed wind power, steamed off power from Bruce Nuclear, spilled hydro losses, idling gas plant costs; the total approaches $30 million, or $10 million per day.
People all over Ontario are asking, what else could have been done with that money?
Here a commentary from Ottawa-based energy economist, Robert Lyman:
In May 2014, the Fraser Institute, based in British Columbia, published a report authored by Professor Ross McKitrick and PhD candidate Elmira Aliakbari of the University of Guelph. The report, Energy Abundance and Economic Growth, endeavoured to answer an important question in economic research: does economic growth cause an increase in energy consumption or does an increase in energy availability cause an increase in economic activity, or both?
The question has important implications for government policy. Suppose GDP (i.e., national income) growth causes increased energy consumption, but is not dependent on it. In this view, energy consumption is like a luxury good (like jewelry), the consumption of which arises from increased wealth. If policy makers wanted to, they could restrict energy consumption without impinging on future economic and employment growth. The alternative view is that energy is a limiting factor (or essential input) to growth. In that framework, if energy consumption is constrained by policy, future growth will also be constrained, raising the economic costs of such policies. If both directions of causality exist (i.e., if economic growth causes increases in energy consumption and increases in the availability, and use of energy causes economic growth), it still implies that restrictions on energy availability or increases in energy prices will have negative effects on future growth.
The main contribution of the report, in terms of economic theory, is that it shows how new statistical methods have been developed that allow for investigation of whether the relationships between economic growth and growth in energy use are simply correlated or are causal in nature. The theoretical and methodological discussion in the report is quite complex, even for a trained economist, which is probably why the report received very little public attention. The clear conclusion of the analysis, however, is that growth and energy either jointly influence each other, or that the influence is one-way from energy to GDP. Further, of all the OECD countries studied, Canada shows the most consistent evidence on this, in that studies under a variety of methods and time periods have regularly found evidence that energy is a limiting factor in Canadian economic growth.
In other words, real per-capita income in Canada is definitely constrained by policies that restrict energy availability and/or increase energy costs, and growth in energy abundance leads to growth in Canadian GDP per capita.
The report concludes with a reference to Ontario’s electricity policies.
“These considerations are important to keep in mind as policymakers consider initiatives (especially related to renewable energy mandates, biofuels requirements, and so forth) that explicitly limit energy availability. Jurisdictions such as Ontario have argued that such policies are consistent with their overall strategy to promote economic growth. In other words, they assert that forcing investment in wind and solar generation systems – while making electricity more expensive overall – will contribute to macro-economic growth. The evidence points in the opposite direction. Policies that engineer energy scarcity are likely to lead to negative effects on future GDP growth.”
One can read the entire Fraser Institute report at:
My recent article about “conservation” provided some detail on the presumed consumption of electricity in 2013 by the 4.6 million residential ratepayers in the province. The estimate was that this rate class consumed 45.5 terawatts (TWh) or 32.3% of total Ontario demand, which IESO reported was 140.7 TWH. While that is an estimate it at least can be compared to estimates from previous years as in the Yearbook of Electricity Distributors on the Ontario Energy Board’s (OEB) website back to 2005. All the other data on the Yearbook site is grouped by “consumption” i.e., “General Service: 50 kWh to 4,999 kWh per month, Large: over 5,000 kWh per month”. Presumably all the government entities from Ministries to Crown Corporations are included in those two groups, so comparing the success or failure of the public sector versus the private sector on “conservation” is impossible.
I set about trying to determine what each sector consumed recognizing the principal ones were: large industrial clients (referred to as Class A ratepayers), small and mid-sized commercial enterprises (manufacturers, food processors, retail outlets, service companies, etc.), Municipalities, Universities (and colleges), Schools and Hospitals (referred to as the MUSH group), large government crown corps, (OPG, Hydro One, LCBO, OLG, IO, etc.), the Ministry of Justice (court houses, etc.), the OPP and the Ministry offices of Public Health, Transportation (GO Transit, Metrolinx, etc.), Environment, Natural Resources, etc.
The objective was to determine how effective those groups have been at “conservation” compared to the 4.6 residential ratepayers, but finding information on them proved a hopeless endeavour. The information is scattered. For example, a report in January 2008 prepared for IESO indicated “Municipalities” consumed 6.6 TWh or 4.3% of Ontario’s consumption, but no other data is available to determine current or past consumption. Likewise, data is missing for all of the other sectors except for the occasional snippet! For example, a testimonial on OPA’s saveonenergy website claims Bradford High School reduced consumption by 84,000 kWh (19% of annual usage) through a lighting retrofit, meaning they consumed about 450 MWh. If one extrapolates the Bradford example to the reported 913 secondary schools in Ontario this group consumed 4.1 TWh but again there is no way to measure that against prior consumption or to determine whether the estimate is even close to actual consumption.
No information on electricity usage in the 3,978 elementary schools could be found. As for universities, a 17-page report entitled Ontario Universities: Going Greener Report 2011, authored by the Council of Ontario Universities, is a disgrace to higher learning and would be marked by every professor as a fail! For example, contracting with Bullfrog Power by some universities is seen as a “conservation” initiative.
The search failed to turn up any meaningful data on electricity consumption by hospitals, the OPP, the Ministry of Justice or the big Crown Corporations.
Perhaps the OEB should enlist those “smart meters” and the “smart grid” to generate data that show the public how well government entities are doing on their “conservation” targets.
Reports a rehash
In desperation, I felt a read of the December 5, 2013 OEB’s Conservation and Demand Management Report-2012 Results might provide answers, but that turned out to be a rehash of CDM reports submitted by the 73 local distribution companies who either brag about exceeding conservation targets or make excuses for why they missed them. It does have claims about Annual Savings such as 2012 “Net Peak Demand Savings” (KW) which totaled 253,086 KW. It also has a section on “2012 CDM Spending” ($136,211,152) so you can determine the cost of saving a KW of capacity by category.
One example is the “Industrial Program” which produced Net Peak Demand Savings of 75,144 KW at a cost of $10,726,749. Cost per peak KW saved was $142.75 ($10,726,749/75,144KW = $142.75). To put that savings per KW in perspective, the U.S. EIA on a chart claims the full capital cost of a KW of on-shore wind capacity is $2,213/KW so the money spent per KW on the “Industrial Program” is equal to the wind turbine operating for 16 years reputedly providing a 16:1 payback. If discounted for how many kWh wind produced at the wrong time of the day/year (80%) at 29% of capacity, however, that ratio would reduce to less than a 1:1 ratio. Another example is the Business Program: spending was $89 million to save 98,217 KW of Net Peak Demand Savings at a cost of $907.43/KW. This is a much higher cost to us ratepayers; it is equivalent to the full capital costs per KW to erect a combined cycle gas plant which would produce power for a minimum of two decades. That ratio would prove to be about 1:1/20th or, for every dollar spent on conservation, the capital cost savings would be a nickel!
The worst example
The worst example however is related to the Home Assistance Program which cost $6,963.15/KW—more than it would cost to build a nuclear plant ($5,530/KW) that would operate for up to 60 years at an all-in annual cost of $93.28/KW, producing about 8,000 kWh (just over a penny per kWh) every year for those 60 years.
Didn’t Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli and others like Environmental Defence tell us “Conservation provides significant economic and environmental benefits; for every $1 invested in energy efficiency, Ontario has avoided about $2 in costs to the electricity system.” If they were actually spending the money on “energy efficiency” instead of schemes that avoid a cost/benefit equation, I might be sold but they’re not. Instead the bureaucracy simply throws money at every hair-brained idea crossing their path.
Time for Minister Chiarelli to take a refresher math course and for the Auditor General to have a serious look at our “Conservation” spending, which is scheduled to cost us $483 million in 2014 alone, and has cost Ontario’s ratepayers in excess of $4 billion since 2004.
The heading on Cold Air energy blogger Scott Luft‘s article read: “September 20th: Ontario electricity’s cleanest day in my lifetime.” He was talking about the fact that emissions from the electricity sector in Ontario produced almost no emissions last Saturday. Why? Low demand meant clean nuclear, clean hydro and clean wind produced more than enough power to satisfy the 13,593 MW average Ontario demand for electricity, as reported by IESO in their Daily Market Summary.
Here are the details: on September 20th, nuclear produced about 270,000 MWh, hydro 82,000 MWh and wind over 40,000 MWh. Taken together, they produced about 81,000 excess MWh of power which Ontario simply exported. Ontario was also busy steaming off Bruce nuclear power, and probably spilling hydro and paying those gas plants for sitting idle. It’s obvious Ontario didn’t need that 40,000 MW of wind but with the “first to the grid” rights of wind and solar, IESO was obliged to accept it.
As it turned out the hourly Ontario electricity price or HOEP performed badly on September 20th and averaged .82 cents per MWh or .00082 cents per kWh. So, Ontario’s ratepayers were paying wind generators $135.00 per MWh while IESO were busy selling it off to our neighbours in NY and Michigan for .82 cents meaning (without counting in the steamed-off Bruce nuclear, the gas plants $500 per MW of capacity for idling, non-utility generators or NUG-contracted utilities for curtailment, solar generators, etc.) we were losing $134.18 for every MWh of power that those wind turbines produced.
What that means to you is, the 81,000 MWh we sold to our neighbours cost each of Ontario’s 4.5 million ratepayers as our Energy Minister, Bob Chiarelli, might say, a large “Timmies” coffee and a donut! Please don’t stop your conservation efforts, however, as the Ontario Liberal government would like us to do this more often!
The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent Wind Concerns Ontario policy.
Note: Neither Wind Concerns Ontario nor author Parker Gallant is opposed to conservation in power use—it would just be nice if Ontario had an electricity policy that made sense and provided affordable, reliable power for all.
A Liberal cost/benefit plan or, how to “plan” to spend $4.7 billion ratepayer dollars
Give Energy Minister, Bob Chiarelli a nice pie (chart) and he will be happy. He gave his blessing to the proposed OPA Business Plan to spend $4.2 billion ratepayer dollars—all nicely pictured in a pie chart that doesn’t include spending $483 million on “conservation” initiatives.
The plan was submitted Friday January 24, 2014 and was approved by Chiarelli on Tuesday, January 29, 2012. Guess he worked over the weekend studying the chart? Figure 2 (the chart) in the Plan provides a breakdown of planned 2014 electricity spending on those “generation charges of $4,242 million” plus another chart laying out the $483 million to be spent on conservation.
Green is for clean-23% ($975.6 million); Blue is for Renewable-32% ($1,357.4 million) and puce is for nuclear-45% (1,909 million)! The Chart as noted represents $4,242 million ratepayer dollars to be spent in 2014.
The chart from the 2014−2016 OPA Business Plan was filed with the OEB, as file number EB-2013-0326. The OPA’s budget for their operational expenditures ($60.3 million) was also included in the submission and approved by the OEB December 19, 2013. The 40-page submission uses buzz words rather than actual economic analysis or a cost-benefit study. For example, you will find “partner” or partnership and partners 57 times, “initiatives” 55 times, “ensure” 22 times, “cost-effective” 20 times, “communication” 24 times, and “solution” 21 times.
The last of 12 listed as “most significant initiatives” is this: “continuing efforts to further reduce expenses and the cost impact of operations on electricity consumers.” So “cost impact” on electricity consumers is at the bottom of the heap. Not likely to change with the Liberal majority government.
You also find the OPA’s “Vision” statement in the Plan which is: “Leading Ontario in the development of North America’s most reliable, cost-effective and sustainable electricity system.” The vision is certainly leading Ontario, but in the direction of being the most expensive electricity system in North America. We just need to pass California and New York City and we will have achieved the goal!
The Business Plan also says the OPA will challenge us residential ratepayers to increase our conservation. How, you ask? The Plan suggests the OPA will do this: “Two other initiatives of strategic value are a pay-for-performance conservation model and a social benchmarking pilot. This pilot aims to cost-effectively reduce residential electricity consumption by providing residents with information-based tools that allow the comparison of one home’s energy performance to that of another home or group of homes. Results from the social benchmarking pilot will be analyzed and used for recommending next steps on developing such a program across the province.”
What? They are now going to shame Ontario electricity customers by applying the “trained seal” approach and presumably award “pay-for-performance” to those who train us? Set communities against one another?
This is some “business plan.”
The OPA commits to spending $4.7 billion ratepayer dollars and gets the blessing of the Minister without a single question! Life is good when Chiarelli is your boss and there are 4.5 million ratepayers to pick up the tab.
The September 10, 2014 press release from the Ontario didn’t quite put it the way this headline does, but if you look behind the PR slogan, “A New Era of Cleaner Air in Ontario” it is obvious! The conversion of the Atikokan coal plant to biomass was complete, went the news story, but the real news is, it will cost us ratepayers a lot and will not save the planet. Why? It is going to emit lots of carbon when it actually runs and produces some electricity.
For background a visit to Renewable Energy World and an article about the conversion process a year ago tells a lot about the project. The article tells you how much the anticipated percentage of production will be, compared to its 200 MW capacity (10% to 12%), the tonnes of wood pellets to be stored (10,000), annual purchase of pellets (90,000 tonnes; one of the chosen suppliers has a contract to supply DRAX with 400,000 tonnes of pellets annually from their Wawa facility), thermal efficiency (close to coal in the mid 30s), the conversion cost ($170 million), and the term of its power purchase agreement (PPA) with the OPA (10 years) with the added information that the latter covers both the conversion and fuel costs (one assumes that it will also cover the costs of operations, maintenance and administration [OMA] of the 70 permanent workers).
In order to calculate how the Atikokan plant will burden ratepayers to produce 1 kilowatt of power, we need to make some basic assumptions in respect to the calculations, but the following are on the conservative side.
The converted plant will operate at 10% of capacity thereby producing 175,200 MWh (megawatt hours) annually calculated as 200 MW X 20% X 8760 hours = 175,200 MWh
At 10% capacity the plant will use 38,000 tonnes of wood pellets annually at a cost of $200 per tonne meaning annual costs of 38,000 X $200 = $7.6 million.
The conversion costs of $170 million will be amortized over the 10 years of the OPA contract meaning (on a straight line basis) an annualized cost of $17 million.
The cost of the 70 employees will average $100K per annum (all-in with pension and benefits) calculated as 70 X $100,000 = $7 million.
The foregoing represents total annual costs of $34,600,000 to produce 175,200 MWh creating a cost per MWh of $197.49 per MWh or 19.7 cents per kWh (kilowatt hour). The math is simply the total cost of $34,600,000/175,200 = $197.39.
There’s more: pellet delivery will require 10 trucks per day within a 200 kilometer radius, five days per week, to bring those 90,000 tonnes to the converted plant. One of those plants is located in Thunder Bay a distance just under the 200 kilometer radius. How is that going to produce “Cleaner Air in Ontario” as suggested by Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli?
The other distorted fact about biomass is that 2.5 tonnes of wood is required to produce 1 tonne of pellets and requires considerable energy to both grind and produce the pellets. They also are less efficient (lower efficiency ratings than all fossil fuels) and produce more CO2 than bituminous coal. The reason biomass is regarded as “renewable” is that the trees cut to produce the pellets (or wood chips) may eventually grow back—it just takes 40 years or so!
A website, Partnerships for Policy Integrity put it succinctly by asking this question: “Is biomass “Worse than coal? Yes, if you’re interested in reducing carbon dioxide emissions anytime in the next 40 years.”
So, what’s the real news story? Our Ontario Liberal government has caused OPG to plunge into further debt, increased our electricity bills and created more emissions than we had before the conversion. The truth is there behind the doublespeak about cleaner air.
Farmers Forum surveyed a big chunk of Wolfe Island residents and found that 75 per cent approve of or are indifferent toward the 86 wind turbines they’ve been living with for five years.
There are only two wind turbine projects in Eastern Ontario–one in Wolfe Island and one near Brinston, south of Ottawa. But Wolfe Island, surrounded by the St. Lawrence River at one end and Lake Ontario at the other, is a captive crowd. We easily surveyed 200 of the 1,400 residents lining up for the Kingston ferry or working in the hamlet of Marysville.
With such a high proportion of residents surveyed–one in seven–we captured a fairly good picture of how people feel about those gigantic white gosal posts with their three imposing blades. Of course, having a visual of a turbine makes a huge difference. On many properties on the 29-kilometer long island, you can’t even see the turbines.* From other vantage points, you can see more than 10.
We found that money makes a difference. Those landowners (many of them farmers) hosting one or more turbines, are delighted with the $10,000 to $14,000 they earn each year per turbine just to look at them. The wind turbine company hands over another $100,000 to the island annually. Improvements to the local outdoor rink are one of the many benefits. It’s like getting paid twice for having the good luck of living at the right place on the right island at the right time.
Not surprisingly, wind power companies in other areas of the province are now offering “hush” money to Ontarians living near a proposed wind turbine project. As I’ve said before, if a company wants to pay me $14,000 a year to put a wind turbine on my property, I’d move the garage in order to accommodate them. Change their mind and offer the turbine to my neighbour and suddenly that turbine doesn’t look so good. It’s kind of an eyesore and doesn’t it affect bird migration? Could this be the health issues that we hear about or am I just sick at the thought that I just lost $280,000 of free money over 20 years? I think I know the answer. But when you offer to cut me in on the monetary benefits of my neighbour’s turbine, I’m suddenly all sunshine and happy thoughts.
This is not to say there aren’t honest-to-goodness health risks. Farmers Forum has no reason to disbelieve those survey respondents who complain of low-level noise when the wind changes direction.
We’re losing $24,000 an hour on wind
This brings me to my only real beef against wind power. As happy as I thought I would be to have a turbine, I don’t want one.
They are the biggest money losers in the history of the province. Not for Wolfe Islanders or anyone else who gets a wind turbine contract. But for everyone else forced to pay an electricity bill. Electricity costs have already risen 12.5 per cent each year for the past five years. There are more than 1,000 operating wind turbines and another more than 4,000 to go up in the province. Ontario’s auditor general says we can expect another 40 per cent price hike over the next few years in our electricity bills. By 2018, every Ontario family will be paying an extra $636 per year to go green. And why? So the province can claim to be the first green province or state in North America? Big deal.
Wind turbines are incredibly inefficient. In a major report last year, the Fraser Institute noted that 80 per cent of the power generated by wind turbines occur when Ontario doesn’t need the power. So, while the province pays 13.5 cents per kilowatt hour, it often resells is for 2.5 cents south of the border. The report, Environmental and Economic Consequences of Ontario’s Green Energy Act, observed that data from the Independent Electricity System Operator show Ontario loses, on average, $24,000 per operating hour on wind power sales. Numerous companies, including Kelloggs and Heinz, have closed plants because Ontario companies pay more for power than any other jurisdiction in North America.
To make matters worse, a wind turbine can contain more than 200 tonnes of steel and Chinese factories need the mining of even more tonnes of coal and iron to make them. Writes David Hughes in his book Carbon Shift, “A windmill could spin until it falls apart and never generate as much energy as was invested in building it.”
So, you can’t even call wind turbines green energy. It’s appalling that farmers have been lied to about the benefits. We’re wasting billions on a phoney cause.
Patrick Meagher is editor of Farmers Forum and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
WCO editor’s note: Although Farmers Forum was clear on the limitations of their survey they missed several key points: one, by surveying only people at the ferry dock and in a coffee shop, they may have missed people who stay on the island all day, but more important, as the Island has turbines on one half and none on the other, it would have been absolutely critical to define where the survey respondents actually live. They didn’t. Another key factor in any survey of community residents living with turbines is the fact that many turbine contracts force landowners to sign a non-disclosure agreement—in other words, if they have anything negative to say about the turbines, they can’t talk.
Ontario will miss a huge opportunity to create jobs and protect the environment if it doesn’t embrace building wind farms in the Great Lakes, an environmental group is arguing.
The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment is calling for construction of “far-offshore” wind farms that will be out of sight and out of hearing distance of the mainland.
The group, which represents 6,000 doctors and members of the public, estimates offshore wind farms would generate a minimum of $10 billion of investment from the private sector.
Gideon Forman, the group’s executive director, said the U.S. is looking seriously at offshore wind farms in the Great Lakes.
“It would be a shame to let that technology-driven leadership opportunity pass Ontarians by,” Forman said.
Ontario put a moratorium on offshore wind farms in the run up to the 2011 provincial election.
Last week, the province invited tenders for two studies on offshore wind farms — one on the impact of sound from the turbines and the other on decommissioning a wind farm in the lake.
But the Environment Ministry said there are no plans to go ahead with such wind farms until there is scientific evidence that projects can be developed in a way that protects both human health and the environment.
Forman maintains far-offshore wind farms would be a source of healthy, low-carbon energy and avoid the controversy surrounding wind farms on land that some consider an eyesore.
Wind farms on water would have another advantage over ones on land. The dynamics of wind over water makes power available throughout the day when electricity demand peaks, Forman said.
The Ontario citizens’ group that has led the fight against wind farms on land isn’t enthused about wind farms in the lakes either.
Jane Wilson, president of Wind Concerns Ontario, said there are grave concerns about installing wind turbines in the Great Lakes, especially Huron and Superior, where weather is severe.
Turbines would be an added danger to navigation, she said.
“We repeat our call for cost-benefit analysis, options analysis, and impact analysis for wind power in general,” Wilson said.
Editor’s note: Our full remarks sent to the London Free Press were as follows:
The push by CAPE for “far offshore turbines” is an admission that there are serious problems with the way Ontario has forced wind power generation facilities onshore in Ontario–and we’re not talking about “esthetic” concerns, but rather, real experiences with the noise and low-frequency noise these power generating machines produce, and harm to the natural environment such as that being caused to birds, bats and other forms of wildlife.
Again, in Ontario, the Energy Minister has said we are in a situation of power supply surplus to our needs; we question why we would engage in further expense for power generation, which would also have the effect of increasing Ontario ratepayer’s electricity bills even higher.
As to “far” offshore, we repeat our call for cost-benefit analysis, options analysis, and impact analysis for wind power in general. There are grave concerns about the installation of wind turbines in the Great Lakes, especially Huron and Superior where weather is very severe—turbines would be an added danger to navigation in these waters. And for Erie, which is so shallow, what would the effects be on the fish, and on the birds that fly over the lake during periods of migration?
This sort of analysis has never been done in Ontario. People deserve to have a proper business case study done, including an assessment of all impacts, before there is further investment in wind power, either on- or offshore.
Daffyd Roderick: the former writer for TIME now an apologist for Hydro One.
The Toronto Starrecently ran an article about the second quarter results for Toronto Hydro and Hydro One. Hydro One’s spokesperson, Daffyd Roderick, made this comment about delinquent accounts: “When it came down to making a decision on whether an account went into collections, we had to be iron-clad certain that the account was truly in collections, and not having an issue caused by us.”
Talk about openness, compassion, and transparency—and an admission about their mucked up billing system! That system is now under review by Andre Marin, the Ontario Ombudsman. Hydro One customers are in deep trouble; remarks like those from Mr. Roderick would not be acceptable in the private sector, but seem to be standard fare from this provincially owned monopoly.
Coincidentally, Cheryl Gallant (no relation) MP for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke initiated a Federal Investigation into Ontario’s “smart meters,” claiming that she has “been inundated with complaints from Ontario Hydro One customers.”
As further evidence of how things work at Hydro One, I recently received a call from the daughter of an old and dear friend who is aware that I keep an eye on the Ontario electricity sector. The call was related to how Hydro One treated her when she inquired about her billing. Her story went like this.
Hydro One installed a smart meter sometime in 2011 and for some time after (including a bill of June 20, 2013) the bills reflected the time-of use consumption as actual readings. She noticed the meter was not displaying digital readings and called Hydro One several times about this, complaining about the lack of a display. It took Hydro One almost a full year, to the spring of 2013, to replace the meter.
The bills from June 20, 2013 on were estimates which she paid and from that point forward they paid Hydro One what she thought would cover power use—no bills reflected actual readings up to May 2014, and then no other bills arrived after that estimated May 2014 bill.
In July 2014 she called to inquire about the status of her account and were informed they had a credit balance of $2,718.00. Then on August 15th she called again and this time was informed she had a balance owing of $5.910.00. That’s a difference of more than $8,600.00. Worse, Hydro One said the claim related to the arrears began in June, 2012.
It gets weirder: a package of billing data dated August 8, 2014 finally arrived in the third week of August, with one of the bills showing the above credit balance. The bill claimed it was for the period May 2012 to June 2012 (that is during the time of the old, now replaced, smart meter) and billed them for $201, less a credit adjustment of $103, leaving a credit balance of $2,621.00.
The other bill included was also dated August 8, 2014 but this one indicated a balance owing of $1,792.00. There were changes made to the time of use and other items (this was also when she had the old meter).
After receiving this new set of bills, my friend’s daughter spoke with a Hydro One representative. When queried about the backdating and changes, the supervisor danced around the questions and finally offered “term financing” of the bill for a lengthy period, during which Hydro One would not charge interest. There was no explanation on how Hydro One recovered that old smart meter to recapture updated readings they were now billing for!
A complaint to the Ontario Ombudsman’s office has been submitted and the couple are now awaiting feedback.
This is probably only one of the thousands of stories that the Ombudsman is now trying to deal with. Between the communications people at Hydro One and the outsourced (Inergi/Capgemini) customer service area I am sure Mr. Marin is getting the run-around just as my friend’s daughter did.
I was reminded of a Will Rogers quote which went, “I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.”
Hydro One’s messed up billing system sure isn’t a joke to its customers. It is my hope that that the Auditor General revisits Hydro One after the Ombudsman’s report is released, and focuses on the mess before we see another run of questionable bills and have to endure the bafflegab from Hydro One spokespeople.
Website editor note: when I called to report that my new “smart meter” was now reading exactly DOUBLE my former power usage, the person answering for Hydro One offered to have “someone come out and find out what you are doing wrong.”