December 6, 2013 – The Windsor Star
Based on what the Liberals have done to hydro bills over the past decade, there’s good reason to worry about what they are now proposing as part of an “updated long-term energy plan.”
In fact, the update comes after hydro costs have increased nearly 50 per cent under the Liberal government’s watch. The reasons are myriad: The Green Energy Act — the centrepiece of the old long-term energy plan — has proven to be overly expensive and controversial. Each year about $1 billion is spent to pay for the stranded debt that was left over after the breakup and restructuring of Ontario Hydro. According to the auditor general, the province sells electricity exports for less than they’re worth. Between 2005 and 2011 the loss was $1.8 billion.
And then there’s the more than $1 billion the government needlessly spent to move two gas plants for no other reason that to save Liberal seats in the last election.
At best, the Liberals’ energy policy is a mess. It has failed to deliver affordable hydro rates that are fair to families and an incentive for businesses investment.
Thanks to the new long-term energy plan, it’s only going to get worse. Ontarians can count on their electricity rates going up 33 per cent over the next three years. And within five years, the average monthly bill of $125 will rise to $178 — a 42 per cent increase.
However, this is all good news, according to Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli. That’s because after the initial hikes, Ontarians will actually be paying $100 a year less than they would have under the old long-term strategy. That’s because the government decided to scrap plans to build two new nuclear reactors, renegotiated the Green Energy deal with Samsung and cut payments to small solar producers and wind farms.
“We are saving ratepayers money,” is how the energy minister characterized the coming hit to electricity bills. Just forget about the inflationary increases that are coming.
As far as Chiarelli is concerned the high rates are “just a fact of life.”
Another fact of life is that the Liberals have mishandled the energy file and they have no intention of addressing high rates, or even stabilizing them.
But since there’s an election coming up, possibly this spring, the Liberals are holding out hope to hard-pressed energy users that they’ll be offering some help “to better control their consumption.”
The government says the program will provide “on-bill financing for energy efficiency retrofits” starting in 2015, which would provide loans for home renovations that would be paid back through electricity bills.
“We haven’t put the details together,” admitted Chiarelli. “The cost of financing over time will be paid for by savings.” And considering the rate hikes ahead, that could be a very long time.
For now, the Liberals’ energy strategy seems to be focused on creating the impression that everything is under control as the province heads toward an election. But the bottom line is that Ontario’s hydro rates are among the highest in North America, and there’s no end in sight to the increases.
The coming election will provide Ontarians with the opportunity to send a simple message to all the parties — it’s time for an affordable energy plan.
See original article here: http://blogs.windsorstar.com/2013/12/06/the-stars-view-new-plan-same-old-hydro-hikes/