No, wait: you’re never going to see it
On December 12, 2017, Yvan Baker, Liberal MPP for Etobicoke Centre introduced Bill 190, An Act to amend the Consumer Protection Act, 2002. After the first reading he provided a short statement:
“Mr. Yvan Baker: Speaker, we all know how terrible it feels when you expect to pay one price for something and end up paying a price that’s much higher than that. Consumers feel confused, misinformed and sometimes misled. This bill, known as the What You See is What You Pay Act, amends the Consumer Protection Act by adding a new section that requires all suppliers of goods or services to ensure that any information provided to a consumer regarding the price of a good or service includes the all-inclusive price. The all-inclusive price is a total of all amounts that a consumer will have to pay for the good or service, including tax and other charges or fees.
This will ensure that consumers don’t have to worry about hidden taxes or fees and that they can make more informed choices. It will ensure that what you see is what you pay.”
So, a question: what will happen to our electricity bills in the future?
According to Hydro One they will have “A fresh new look to serve you better”. Hydro One appears to be in the process of spending $15 million dollars to make that happen, as explained on page 2032 of one of the dozens of documents filed with the OEB seeking several rate increases. Those will cost $141 more per average ratepayer over the next four years.
Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault spoke to the billing issue in the Legislature December 12 stating: “We have an LDC working group with the Electricity Distributors Association, which represents all local utilities across the province. They’re working with us, as part of the long-term energy plan, to create a bill redesign. They understand what needs to be done and how we need to ensure that we make it as clear as possible, for people to understand how our electricity system works and how our electricity bills work as well.”
A quick look at the sample “fresh” bill posted by Hydro One doesn’t show much difference from those currently used, although it promises we ratepayers will “Understand more about the electricity use, delivery and regulatory charges that make up your statement.”
I suspect there is much we won’t be told. The Yvan Baker bill will presumably bury the breakdown of what is in the key three lines “Electricity used,” “Delivery” and “Regulatory Changes” so we shouldn’t expect to be enlightened.
Here are several samples of what we won’t see as a breakdown on our bills:
- Cap and Trade costs—they are not allowed to appear on either our electricity or natural gas bills
- Fuel costs for water both running through turbines and being spilled when IESO instructs OPG to do the latter. Costs/fees paid to the province annually are in excess of $350 million.
- Costs for curtailed wind generation of over $400 million annually.
- Costs for spilled hydro of 4.5 TWh (terawatt hours) at a cost of about $200 million annually.
- Costs for various conservation programs estimated at $400 million annually.
- Costs for line losses of 5/6 TWh annually representing a cost of at least $500 million.
- Costs for steaming off Bruce Nuclear—annual costs unknown but believed to be $50/100 million annually.
- Costs for “gaming” the system by gas plant and coal plant operators estimated to be in excess of $350 million by the Auditor General of Ontario over a period of several years.
- Costs absorbed for exporting surplus generation annually in excess of $1 billion.
- Costs associated with the Class A to Class B transfer estimated to be around $1 billion annually.
- Interest costs (unknown) on borrowed funds related to the Fair Hydro Act’s 25% reduction.
Do the quick math on the above you will note the annual costs of what we won’t see itemized on our bill comes to $4 billion. Most of it represents no value to residential or small business ratepayers. The only value accrues to the Class A ratepayers and all the costs will be paid by residential and small business ratepayers.
A rough estimate of the costs of the above to the average residential ratepayer who consumes 9 MWh (megawatt hour) annually is approximately $27.00 per/MWh (2.7 cents/kWh) and represents $243.00 annually ($27,00 X 9 MWh) for no benefit!
For Ontario ratepayers “What You See is What You Pay” has been a fact of life under the current government. Hydro One’s $15-million spend to give us a bill without a proper breakdown will do nothing to “to ensure that we make it as clear as possible” despite Minister Thibeault’s claim!
Transparency will continue to elude the Energy Ministry and ratepayers will still feel misinformed.