The Ontario Liberal Electricity Legacy is Complicated

The Cost of Subsidizing Green Energy Contracts for Industrial and Large Commercial Ratepayers came from the Financial Accountability Office (FAO) of Ontario in a report issued March 18, 2021!  What it states is the upcoming three years (2021-2023) will burden taxpayers with a cost of $2.8 billion.

My take on that “burden” was an estimate of $3.8 billion in an article posted November 9, 2020 just days after the Provincial budget was released announcing the subsidy. I did note, at that time, my estimate was a “back of the envelope” calculation and several events have occurred since then affecting the cost estimates.  The FAO’s forecast is the cost is 2.2 times what the budget estimated it was going to be whereas my estimate was 2.9 times the budget number.

The FAO report goes into further detail suggesting out to 2040 “the renewable generation subsidy program will cost the Province a net total of $15.2 billion.” The latter is referenced in the FAO report as the “Net cost to the Province” as the report stated; if the current subsidy program remained in effect through to 2040 for all segments of electricity consumers the total cost would have been $38.6 billion plus a loss of $1.3 billion in HST.  What the recent amendments to the Ontario Electricity Rebate (OER) program did was reduce the “OER discount provided to residential, farm and small business ratepayers”, which resulted in a reduction of $24.7 billion in estimated costs over the 20 years.

No doubt many Ontario ratepayers will recall Ontario’s Auditor General, Bonnie Lysyk, in 2015 issued a report castigating the Ontario Liberal Party stating; “From 2006 to 2014, the electricity portion of the hydro bills of residential and small-business consumers increased by 70%. In particular, the Global Adjustment fees, covering the excess payments to generators over the market price, cost consumers $37 billion during that period, and are projected to cost another $133 billion from 2015 to 2032.”

That report from the AG was the bedrock used by the Ford led Ontario Conservative Party to make it a major issue during the leadup to the last provincial election and at that time they promised to reduce electricity rates by 12%.  We ratepayers are still waiting for that to happen!  With the advent of the relief provided by the province as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic our rates were reduced but the announcement from the OEB (Ontario Energy Board) on February 22, 2021 stated; “residential and small business customers will resume paying Time-of-Use (TOU) and Tiered pricing under the Regulated Price Plan (RPP) at prices that were set by the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) on December 15, 2020.”  To put the foregoing in context a look at TOU rates before the Ford government were elected and comparing them to those announced by the OEB discloses the 12% promise is a distant memory as we see the percentage increases in all three categories has jumped by a large multiple of the inflation rate as the following depicts!

Time of Use    March 2018    March 2021    % Increase
Off-peak              6.5/kWh            8.5/kWh           30.7%
Mid-peak            9.5/kWh           11.9/kWh          25.2%   
On-peak             13.2/kWh          17.6/kWh           31.8%       

The difference between then and now is simply that back then the Wynne led government was using taxpayer monies to provide relief via the “Fair Hydro Plan” which subsidized rates by 29% (based on my bill) whereas the Ford government is now using taxpayer dollars to provide a subsidy of almost 98% (based on my bill).  It’s simply a case of incurring taxpayer debt to subsidize ratepayers.  Instead of taking money from our after-tax pocket they are incurring it for future taxpayers to pay.

In an interview back in March 2020 Premier Ford in response to the question about why he hadn’t achieved the 12% reduction in electricity rates went on and used the phrase “it’s extremely complicated”.  That phase is very similar to the phrases used by former energy ministers such as Bob Chiarelli and Glen Thibeault as well as the current leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, Steven Del Duca. 

What is obvious from the foregoing is the time has arrived for someone/anyone with basic common sense be appointed to the Ministry and make a serious effort to uncomplicate it!

Perhaps it’s simply a pipe dream!

Author: parkergallantenergyperspectivesblog

Retired international banker.

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