If you are a Hydro One customer, when you get your bill this month it will include a letter addressed “To our valued customers” which describes the wonderful things Hydro One has supposedly done for you. The letter, signed by CEO Mayo Schmidt, is filled with claims about actions taken and how they were all done to “serve you better.”
One of the paragraphs is particularly noteworthy. It declares:
“For our customers who are struggling with affordability, I want you to know that we are strongly advocating on your behalf. Earlier this year we urged government to make affordability a priority and we made several suggestions that resulted in the creation of the Fair Hydro Plan. The majority of our customers consuming 750 kWh a month have started to see an average reduction of 31 per cent on their monthly bill. For many of our customer, this represents a savings of $600 a year.”
So, the take-away from those words of sympathy from CEO Schmidt ($4.4 million* in compensation in 2016) suggests it was he — not Premier Wynne or Energy Minister Thibeault — who conceived the “kick the can down the road” concept that became the Fair Hydro Act!
Look back to a recent comment from Minister Thibeault in a CBC article, he said this about the Plan: “ ‘This is like remortgaging our house,’ Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault told reporters Monday at Queen’s Park. “I’ve always said that the Fair Hydro Plan was a fair plan; it was the best plan we could come up with when we were talking with energy experts, accounting experts, the legal experts.”
When the Fair Hydro Plan was launched back on March 2, 2017 Premier Wynne said: “I have heard from people around the province who are worried about the price they are asked to pay for electricity and the impact it has on their household budget. Electricity is a necessity. By fixing problems in the system, we will be able to provide every residential customer in Ontario with an average 25 per cent off their bills now and make rates fairer in the future.”
So the question is, does the “we” include Hydro One’s CEO Schmidt, and is he classified as one of the “energy experts” Minister Thibeault claimed they talked with? If so, I hope Schmidt told him about the rate increases Hydro One has applied for that will increase average customer’s bills by $141 a year in 2022 (based on current Hydro One rate applications under review by the OEB).
Those rate increases are needed by Hydro One to help pay for their upcoming purchase of Avista Corp. as it will represent a revenue gain to them of close to $500 million annually.
The LDC benefiting the most from the Fair Hydro Plan was Hydro One which still has the second highest distribution rates. Before privatization, they had the highest ratepayer arrears (past due accounts), the bulk of ratepayers accessing the Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP) and the highest level of bad debts. A part of the rate increase they currently seek would allow them to install “pre-paid smart meters” meaning if a ratepayer couldn’t afford top up their account they would be automatically disconnected.
On October 17, 2017 ratepayers got further bad news from Bonnie Lysyk, Ontario’s Auditor General reported due to the way in which the Fair Hydro Plan is being financed, ratepayers will be required to pay an extra $4 billion in interest costs. That $4 billion increases estimated borrowing costs by 19% to $21 billion to cover the forecast $18.4 billion cost of the Plan. The latter costs represent the bulk of the 25% reduction (16%**), bringing total estimated costs for this portion to $39.4 billion.
The shell game of the Ontario Liberal government in Ontario’s energy portfolio continues, aided and abetted by Hydro One. If Hydro One’s rate applications are approved, their distribution rates will jump bringing more misery to their ratepayers!
* The CEO’s compensation is more than the total amount available annually under the LEAP (Low-income Energy Assistance Program) from the 73 local distribution companies in the province.
** The other 9% comes from removing the provincial portion of the HST (8%) and putting the OESP and RRRP (1%) as a taxpayer responsibility.