A look back at Ontario Liberal promises: the true cost of bungling

Former Premier Dalton McGuinty: The Liberal promises of affordable electricity and politics-free policy were discarded [Photo: Huffington Post]
A Globe and Mail article of November 11, 2002 reported that Dalton McGuinty, leader of the Ontario Liberal Party (OLP), then in Opposition, was upset because Premier Ernie Eves had promised legislation to cap electricity prices.

Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty said the true cost of the Conservative government’s hydro bungling will add billions of dollars to the debt.

“Now that families and businesses have been scared to death, now that new investment in supply has been scared off, now that everyone knows hydro has been completely mismanaged, Ernie Eves is going back to square one,” Mr. McGuinty said in a news release on Monday.

“The government should have had its act together before the market opened. And the bill for its failure to do that hasn’t been cancelled — it’s just been put off.”

Mr. McGuinty said the Ontario Liberals have been calling for action for months, but the Eves government has not acted until now to freeze electricity prices and increase supply.

The Liberal Leader said his real concern is what Ontarians will have to pay over the long term.

Fast forward to September 14, 2005 when Dalton McGuinty was Ontario’s Premier. In a keynote speech to the Ontario Energy Association, he bragged about what the OLP had accomplished and their plans for the future. Let’s examine the promises made in that speech.

McGuinty: “We won’t gamble away Ontario’s future prosperity because of what the next poll might or might not say...”

A noble thought, but discarded by the OLP. When seeking re-election in 2011 McGuinty cancelled the Mississauga and Oakville gas plants and plans to contract for offshore wind developments.  Polling in ridings affected by the foregoing showed several Liberal seats in jeopardy.   More recently, shortly after a poll indicated Premier Wynne’s approval rating was at 20 %, she announced hydro rates would be cut by 25 %.  Policy by polls…

McGuinty: … Or because of what new technology might or might not be developed.

The launch of the Green Energy and Green Economy Act (GEA) in 2009 focused on wind and solar generation at above market prices, without a cost/benefit study as pointed out by the Ontario Auditor General in his December 5, 2011 report.  Both wind and solar were old technologies promoted by ENGO and wind and solar associations and known to be intermittent and unreliable sources of generation.

McGuinty: That’s why we asked the OPA to report on a long-term plan.

The Ontario Power Authority (OPA) produced a viable plan with limited wind and solar capacity to be contracted for in a competitive environment, but the plan was suspended by Energy and Infrastructure Minister George Smitherman before approval via his directive to the OPA dated September 17, 2008.

McGuinty: That’s why we acted to take the politics out of pricing.

The recent Fair Hydro Act and the gas plant moves dispel the notion that politics has been removed from pricing, as do the FIT and MicroFIT programs that past Minister Smitherman enabled via a directive issued September 24, 2009 to the OPA which included a domestic content requirement.  The latter resulted in a challenge before the World Trade Organization which Canada lost and taxpayers picked up the costs.

McGuinty: This spring, the Ontario Energy Board, a truly arms-length public agency will set the price of power for small consumers. The OEB sets the price based on what electricity costs, not on what politicians think it should cost, or wish it would cost.

While those homilies are correct, the prices are set based on input costs which the OEB has no control over. In simple terms, they divide the input costs accumulated (Global Adjustment + Hourly Ontario Electricity Price + transmission) and divide it by kilowatt hours consumed.  The impact of above market (highlighted by the Auditor General reports) contracts with wind, solar, and other generators and the plethora of other spending (e.g., conservation $400 million per year, etc.) dictated by the Energy Minister, plus above market salaries and benefits for OPG and Hydro One employees etc., are all part of those costs.

McGuinty: We could require our businesses and families to subsidize the price of electricity through their taxes.

Premier McGuinty did just that when he moved the gas plants and part of the cost was paid by taxpayers. The Liberal government also drove up the price of hydro and put 600,000 household into energy poverty. It fell on charities, supported by Ontario taxpayers, to help those households.  Tax dollars from those households also supplied grants to buyers of expensive Tesla automobiles and those grants continue today!

McGuinty: But, having finally put our province on a sound financial footing, we choose to ensure the price of electricity reflects the true cost of electricity.

The “sound financial footing” didn’t last long, and during the Liberals’ reign Ontario’s debt has increased from $132 billion to over $300 billion. Ontario has seen only one budget in the last decade that will seemingly balance and that was the most recent one.

McGuinty: We can’t guarantee price certainty –; that just isn’t realistic, given the nature of the challenges before us.

The Fair Hydro Act just passed by the Wynne government guarantees price certainty for four years for certain classes of ratepayers.  This isn’t realistic: refinancing those assets may conflict with their ability to continue to generate electricity for an additional ten years.  Amortization of fixed assets is based on the longevity of those assets, but the Wynne government has decreed that they can extend their life so that our children will be stuck with the replacement costs.

McGuinty: But I can assure you that we will do everything we can to ensure safe, clean, affordable electricity is always in full supply in the Province of Ontario.

When the OLP became the government, the average price of a kilowatt hour was 4.3 cents. By 2016 it averaged 11.2 cents — a 160% increase.  The 25% reduction touted by Premier Wynne as the largest in Ontario’s history followed.  The subsidy to cover that 25% will accumulate within the confines of OPG and at the end of increases held to “the rate of inflation for the next four years,” that subsidy will rise well above that benchmark in the years following that moratorium.

McGuinty: We won’t subsidize prices or cap prices –; that would mean more debt or higher deficits. Both of which would lead ultimately to higher taxes.

By deferring debt to subsidize hydro prices for four years within OPG’s balance sheet (guaranteed by the Province), the plan is to hide (temporarily) the impact from ratepayers while supposedly balancing the budget.

So, what happened to all those lofty promises of “affordable” electricity costs for consumers and business, that is immune to politics?

Was this what all those promises really meant?

“The true cost of the Liberal government’s hydro bungling will add tens of billions of dollars to the debt.

Parker Gallant

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Hydro One: can it deliver on its dividend promise?

The headline on the Hydro One February 10 press release was:  “Hydro One Reports Positive Fourth Quarter Revenue and Operating Cost Trends.” Annual “revenues, net of purchased power” came in at $3,125 million, an increase of $37 million (.4%) over 2015, while Net Income rose from $714 million to $746 million, and “adjusted” earnings per share increased to $1.21/share up from $1.16/share.

If you believe the reporting by Hydro One, you are led to believe a small increase in revenue translated to an almost identical increase in after-tax income.

A closer look is necessary to determine how that happened. As it turns out, transmission revenue was up $48 million and distribution revenue was down $11 million, accounting for the revenue increase. Regulatory assets1. climbed $130 million while operations, maintenance and administration (OMA) apparently fell by $66 million. It is not clear how many millions of OMA expenses were placed into “regulatory assets,” but we should assume a portion of salaries, pensions and benefits were.

As a result, it is impossible to determine whether Hydro One has become more or less efficient, despite this claim in the press release: “Our fourth quarter results demonstrate favourable revenue growth and operating cost control.” We can quickly see “favourable revenue growth” was small potatoes!

There are ways of using information in that press release and annual report to allow for calculations. One area that affects ratepayers is “delivery” costs which is reflected in Hydro One’s “distribution” business line. The annual report indicates the amount of electricity distributed to their 1.3 million residential and business customers fell 8.6% from 28,763 gigawatts (GWh) to 26,289 GWh while distribution revenue fell by $11 million from $1,499 million to $1,488 million. Using simple division one is able to calculate the cost of distribution per megawatt (MWh) increased from $52.05/MWh to $56.60/MWh for an increase of 8.7% or $4.55/MWh.

Everyone pays

Not all of that increase was paid for by Hydro One customers, however, as Hydro One receives revenue from all of Ontario’s ratepayers via the OESP (Ontario Electricity Support Program) which presumably resulted in the year over year drop (at a minimum) of $26 million in Hydro One’s “Allowance for doubtful accounts” from $61 million to $35 million. As well, all Ontario ratepayers pick up the costs of the RRRPP (rural and remote rate protection plan) which was $125.4 million for Hydro One in 2016 and will increase in 2017 to $243.4 million. Adjusting the distribution revenue to reflect contributions to Hydro One by all Ontario ratepayers would reduce their distribution costs to about $54/MWh (5.4 cents/kWh) and bring it almost in line with the claim by Hydro One their distribution/delivery costs represent about 37% of their customer’s electricity bills before HST. If one does the calculation on the OEB’s website however the actual cost of the “delivery” line for a “medium density” Hydro One ratepayer is 43%!

Another asset that showed a big jump on Hydro One’s balance sheet in 2016 was “goodwill” which more than doubled to $327 million, despite their having recovered $60 million in goodwill from the provincial acquisition of Hydro One Brampton before Hydro One went public. This also occurred just before the arranged merger of Hydro One Brampton with PowerStream, Horizon and Enersource. Hydro One has been snapping up some of the small local distribution companies (LDC) such as Norfolk Power, Woodstock Hydro, Haldimand for the past few years and recently applied to the OEB for acquisition of Orillia Power. Hydro One also just completed acquisition of Great Lakes Transmission improving the monopolistic control they hold in this business line to over 98%.   The LDC acquisitions were made well above book value and many of them had their delivery rates frozen for five years.

With Hydro One’s success at being the second most expensive hydro distributor we should expect the ratepayers in the locales of the acquired LDC will see their future delivery rates jump significantly.

On the liability side of Hydro One’s ledger, 2016 saw the acquisition of about $1.7 billion of increased and mainly long-term debt yet, their negative working capital position only improved $716 million. The additional debt raised during the year caused their Debt/Equity ratio to rise from 1.45:1 at the end of 2015 to 1.52:1 at the end of 2016 and brought with it increased interest costs. A rising D:E ratio often precedes a credit rating drop!

Dividend promise impossible, unless …

All this points to a company whose future is dependent on the OEB granting their every wish to increase delivery/distribution rates. If not, the promise to dividend out 70/80% of their annual net profits becomes impossible unless they either: forgo proper maintenance of the infrastructure, or reduce OMA costs via either staff reductions or salary cuts, or sell off assets!

Dividends paid in 2016 on the 5,623,000 common shares were $577 million representing 80% of net income attributable to common shares with just over $400 million going to the provincial treasury leaving about $150 million2. in retained earnings for future investments in infrastructure repairs and refurbishment and the building and/or improvement to the transmission grid(s) and LDC infrastructure.

Something’s got to give, or future increases to Hydro One’s ratepayers will be even worse than the past!

 

  1. Regulatory assets “represent certain amounts receivable from future customers and costs that have been deferred for accounting purposes because it is probable that they will be recovered in future rates.”
  2. Capital spending in 2016 was reported as $1.6 billion.  

Hard to see through the fog of Wynne government energy promises

On October 21, 2013 Premier Wynne wrote a letter “To the people of Ontario” with a few promises.

“We must also unlock public data so that you can help us solve problems and find new ways of doing things. I believe that government data belongs to the people of Ontario and so we will make government data open by default.”

and

“Our Open Government initiative will help create the transparent, accessible government that the people of Ontario deserve. Over the months and years to come, we’ll be bringing forward additional initiatives that will improve transparency, accountability, and connectivity.”

Almost a year later, possibly in an effort to augment her promise of “transparency” she wrote “mandate letters” to her Ministers. To her Minister of Energy, Bob Chiarelli she said, “We want to be the most open and transparent government in the country. We want to be a government that works for the people of this province — and with them. It is of the utmost importance that we lead responsibly, act with integrity, manage spending wisely and are accountable for every action we take.” [Italics mine]

Premier Wynne’s “mandate letter” to the current energy Minister, Glenn Thibeault, September 23, 2016 said nothing about transparency but does say:  “At this halfway mark of this government’s mandate, I encourage you to build on the momentum that we have successfully achieved over the past two years, to work in tandem with your fellow ministers to advance our economic plan”.

After almost three and a half years since Wynne’s letter to the people, perhaps it’s time to look at the promise to “unlock public data” and how the “Open Government” promise has delivered on  “transparency”!

  • Two months after Wynne’s letter to her Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli, in an appearance on TVO he claimed, “since 2008, the province of Ontario – and you can verify it with the IESO — has made a $6 billion profit on the trading of electricity.”
  • Current Energy Minister, Glenn Thibeault when asked in an interview with Global TV for information on how many ratepayers were behind in their hydro bills and how many had been disconnected, he had no idea! Neither did the OEB, or Ministry of Energy staff. Thibeault wouldn’t admit there was a crisis.
  • Less than two months after Thibeault refused to agree there was a crisis, Premier Wynne admitted rising hydro bills were “an urgent issue”. Loss of a critical byelection finally opened her eyes.

The IESO (Independent Electricity System Operators) website dazzles with the amount of data available. Search using the terms “transparency” or “transparent” you get 2,800 hits. Impressive, but as the saying goes, actions speak louder than words!

IESO fail to provide data on:

  • How much wind is curtailed or
  • How much water is spilled by hydro electric generators or
  • How much nuclear is “steamed off” by Bruce Nuclear or
  • How much wind or solar distributor connection energy was produced or
  • How much money was generated from sales of surplus exported power to our neighbours and
  • How much that exported power cost Ontario’s ratepayers

IESO is responsible for the financial aspects of settling (contracted and/or regulated) with each and every generator in the province either directly or via local distribution companies, and also must settle with the buyers and sellers of both our exported and imported energy. In effect they play a major role in determining the final cost of what each and every ratepayer are charged for the line on their bills reading either “electricity” and “GA” or Global Adjustment.

They should be the purveyors of all the “public data” from the energy sector Premier Wynne referenced in her letter to us in September 2013 but as noted, they are falling short.

A recent event made that obvious.

On January 18, 2017, IESO issued a News Release, “ Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator Releases 2016 Electricity Data”. The release had a table summarizing Ontario’s transmission connected generator output by fuel type, listing the outputs as: Nuclear 91.4 TWh (terawatt hours), Hydro 35.6 TWh, and Wind 9.0 TWh respectively.   Two days later, those three “outputs” were suddenly different with Nuclear at 91.7 TWh, Hydro at 35.7 and Wind at 9.3 TWh.

No apologies, no explanations or even a mention they altered the original News Release. The .7 TWh added to the output represents a cost of about $70 million ratepayers will pay, yet no explanation was posted about the change.

In Ontario today, transparency is shrouded in fog, and “spending wisely” has been forsaken by this government, in the badly managed electricity sector.

Letter to Energy Minister Thibeault: facts not insults, please

The Honourable Glenn Thibeault, Minister of Energy

Dear Minister Thibeault:

I just read your “Guest Column” in the Toronto Sun headlined: “Energy minister rips report on closing coal plants.”

Your article seeks to discredit the work of the Fraser Institute referring to it as a “right-wing” institution, and the principal author as a “climate change denier” despite their record of achievements!

Interestingly enough, you don’t stop there to insult the authors, but ramble on with further insults and launch into rhetoric without any discernable facts.   You cite a variety of organizations without offering any specifics on how they; either researched the relationships between Ontario’s coal plants and those in neighbouring jurisdictions, or the effects of what those plants were spewing that wound up in Ontario’s air.   If you bothered to actually research the information the report contains you will see the authors effectively proved closing Ontario’s coal plants did little to improve air quality but what was effective turned out to be the switching of electricity generation in our neighbours’ land from coal generation to gas generation.  The prevailing winds did the rest! 

Throwing insults around is not an effective way to make a point.

It is interesting that you pick one year only to note the number of “smog days” Ontario experienced.  If you had checked with the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change you would have learned that in  2012 we had 30 such days, in 2009 we had only five, but in 2007 we had 39.  If you are going to cite statistics you should not just pick one that makes the weak point you are striving for unless you can prove it wasn’t an aberration.

Your closing was presumably meant to show your compassion (like the Prime Minister’s hug the other night) and it does a nice job but I would note a lot of people remember back in July, August and September when all the bad news was hitting the press about energy poverty, people having to choose between eating or paying their electricity bill.  At that time Ontarians found out that at the end of 2015 there were 566,902 ratepaying households in arrears and 60,000 ratepayers were disconnected.  Those households in arrears represented over 12% of all of Ontario’s ratepayers and the many of the 60,000 households cut off had some very sad stories that the mainstream media picked up on.

Your compassion at that time was not flattering and the fix you brought in has been mitigated by the advent of the “cap and trade” tax that will continue to cause energy poverty. 

It is time your Ministry accepted responsibility for the mess that has been created in this province, home to the highest electricity prices in the country and the fastest rising in the U.S. or Canada.

Yours truly,

Parker Gallant,

A concerned citizen

Energy stakeholders to the Wynne government: the new plan should focus on costs

January 11, 2017

Last October, Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault launched the “Discussion Guide to Start the Conversation” with the objective of “Planning Ontario’s Energy Future”. The Long-Term Energy Plan or LTEP when presented in 2017 will be the sixth LTEP (including 1 and 1[a], discarded by Smitherman) developed by the current government in the past nine years, which says a lot about “long-term” planning.

Naturally when an opportunity to contribute to policy comes along, organizations offer their views on the direction the plan should take. I have prepared a review of some of the comments made to the Ministry of Energy on the LTEP.

First we have Robert Hornung (MA, Political Science), president of wind power trade association and lobbyist the Canadian Wind Energy Association or CanWEA, who suggested “The only way to meet those goals [reducing carbon emissions] is to increase the use of electricity, particularly electricity generated from sources that don’t emit carbon. Wind is well-positioned to meet that need.”

Then Jack Gibbons (former Toronto Hydro commissioner) of Ontario Clean Air Alliance said: “While the world shifts to green sources, Ontario is doubling down on nuclear, rebuilding ten aging reactors, while pushing renewable energy to the fringe. This is a bad plan and an economically disastrous direction . . . Ontario should set a target or moving to 100 per cent renewable energy by 20150.” [sic]

Now that is what I call “long-term planning”!

On the other hand we have organizations who are interested in ensuring electricity rates stop rising at multiples of the inflation rate.

Canadian Federation of Independent Business – The CFIB suggested in their comments to the Energy Ministry that “Ontario Hydro rates are out of control”; they met with the Minister of Energy and made the following recommendations.

• Eliminate all time-of-use (Smart Meter) rates for small businesses and implement a lower cost rate system on the first 3,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity consumed per month.
• Accelerate the removal of the Debt Retirement Charge from commercial hydro bills, which is currently slated for April 1, 2018.
• Require the display of the “Global Adjustment” on all hydro bills to increase transparency.
Canadian Taxpayers Federation – The Canadian Taxpayers Federation website posting shows their concern:
“If Hydro Rates are ‘Urgent Issue’ for Wynne, She Must Repeal Green Energy Act” and also, “Ontario customers have seen the largest increase in electricity prices anywhere in Canada – more than 60 per cent higher than the national average between 2006 and 2015.”

Ontario Chamber of Commerce – The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) were more subdued but their report of July 2015 commented: “The price of electricity is a major factor in the overall cost of doing business for many companies. As such, it is also a critical component of a jurisdiction’s competitiveness in the global economy. Jurisdictions with high electricity prices are at a disadvantage when it comes to creating jobs and attracting investment.”
The OCC’s submission on this LTEP noted in muted tones: “the addition of renewable energy resources under the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) program has contributed to overall systems costs by guaranteeing long-term and above-market payouts to generators.”

Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters – The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME) were much more aggressive in their submission on the LTEP. “We are calling for immediate relief for manufacturers from Ontario’s sky-high electricity rates and a longer term plan to use the system as a tool for economic development” said Ian Howcroft, Vice President of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) Ontario Division. And “we urge the government to push further and faster to bring rates in line with competing jurisdictions.”
CME’s priorities for reductions included several recommendations including: Providing relief targeting smaller to medium sized manufacturers that aren’t covered by existing programs, and eliminating the Debt Retirement Charge (DRC), and “Offering more surplus capacity to manufacturers” among other suggestions.
Finally, they added this grave warning: “Lower manufacturing rates are necessary to retain and attract investment in Ontario rather than seeing it go to other jurisdictions.”

Ontario Society of Professional Engineers – A September 2016 article by Terence Corcoran of the Financial Post noted “Experts and analysts have been warning of the excess wind and solar expansions for years. The Ontario Society of Professional Engineers’ Paul Acchione warned in 2012 that wind expansion is ‘costly’ and ‘technically difficult to integrate’ into the Ontario system.” OSPE’s submission on the LTEP is a focused document that carries a lot of interesting facts. For example, they say this about power generation from wind:
“Wind generation has relatively little economic value in Ontario’s low emission power system.”

OSPE’s recommendations on ways to reduce the price of electricity are: Reduce operating costs or increase revenue from the sale of surplus electricity; Move existing costs not directly associated with producing electricity into tax-supported accounts; Transfer market risks from electricity consumers to investors; and, Remove government sales and water use taxes on electricity.
While the recommendations appear short and simple people “in the know” will recognize the seriousness subtly expressed in each of those four recommendations.

Strategic Policy Economics – Marc Brouillette’s excellent submission on behalf of Bruce Nuclear also carries some sane observations such as “Wind generation has not matched demand since its introduction in Ontario” and, “Over 70% of wind generation does not benefit Ontario’s supply capability.” And this one, which is becoming more evident as ratepayers are forced to pay for curtailed generation: “Wind generation will not match demand in the OPO Outlook future projections as 50% of the forecasted production is expected to be surplus.”

The recommendation that will cause the most handwringing will be: “The LTEP should integrate the objectives of Ontario’s environmental, energy, industrial, and economic policies for the long-term future benefit of Ontarians.”

Wind Concerns Ontario – The coalition of community groups and individuals throughout Ontario had this to say by way of advice to the Ministry: “The government policy to promote “renewables” such as wind and solar have been a critical factor in the grave economic situation today. Wind power for example, now represents 22% of electricity cost, while providing only 5.9% of the power. Worse, that power is produced out-of-phase with demand, as has been detailed by two Auditors General; so much of it is wasted. This is unsustainable.

“Clearly,” WCO continued, “the direction for the Ministry of Energy is to formulate a new Long-Term Energy Plan that will take immediate action on reducing electricity costs. Those actions must include a review of all contractual obligations for power generation from wind, and action to mitigate further costs to the system, and the over-burdened people of Ontario.”

WCO called for cancellation of all the wind power contracts given in 2016, the FIT 5.0 program, and further, cancellation of all contracts for projects not yet built or which are not going to make a critical commercial operation date. In fact, all wind power contracts should be reviewed and paid out, as Ontario can save money by eliminating the need to dispose of the surplus electricity.

 

Time will tell what the Long-Term Energy Plan will look like, but if it doesn’t include direct action to reduce actual costs to the system, it will be no plan at all.

Dancing in the streets when Ontario’s wind power “tyranny” ends?

My article in the Financial Post, December 15, 2016.

[Photo: Getty Images]

The editor of the magazine, North American Windpower, recently marked the demise of Ontario’s wind industry. His article was titled “Eulogizing Ontario’s Wind Industry.” Apparently the eulogy was a result of Ontario Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault’s announcement of Sept. 27 that he was “suspending” the acquisition of 1,000 MW (megawatts) of renewable energy under the previously announced LRP ll (Large Renewable Procurement).

Thibeault explained that “IESO (Independent Electricity System Operator) had advised that Ontario had a robust supply of electricity over the coming decade to meet projected demand.” Thibeault didn’t express surprise at this sudden turn of events or explain what led to the realization. To put some context around the suspension, only a few months earlier former Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli had issued the directive to acquire the 1,000 MW that Thibeault shortly after “suspended.”

The Windpower article opens with: “Ladies and gentlemen, we are gathered here today to pay our respects to Ontario’s utility-scale wind industry, which has passed away from unnatural causes (a lack of government support).”

If Ontario’s wind industry had truly passed away, the celebrations among hundreds of thousands of Ontario ratepayers would have rivaled the scale of celebrations exhibited in Florida by Cuban exiles after hearing that Castro died. As it is, Ontarians are hardly celebrating. We will be forced to live with and among industrial wind turbines for at least the next 20 years. The “government support” alluded to in the eulogy isn’t dead. It continues to get pulled from the pockets of all Ontario ratepayers and has caused undue suffering.

The wind industry rushed to Ontario to enjoy the largesse of government support via a government program that granted above-market payments for intermittent and unreliable power. Industrial wind turbines have so driven up electricity prices that Ontario now suffers the highest residential rates in Canada and the fastest growing rates in North America. The Ontario Association of Food Banks in its recent 2016 “Hunger Report” noted: “Since 2006, hydro rates have increased at a rate of 3.5 times inflation for peak hours, and at a rate of eight times inflation for off-peak hours. Households across Ontario are finding it hard to keep up with these expenses, as exemplified by the $172.5 million in outstanding hydro bills, or the 60,000 homes that were disconnected last year for failing to pay.”

Beyond that, the cost of energy affects businesses and, as noted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, “fuel, energy costs” ranks for their Ontario members as the second-highest “major cost constraint” behind “tax, regulatory costs.”

Until the day we actually see Ontario electricity consumers dancing in the streets one day, the eulogy for this province’s wind-power tyranny is unfortunately premature.

No hydro price rise today? Just wait

November 1, 2016

Ontario’s electricity ratepayers or customers were somewhat surprised when the OEB (Ontario Energy Board) announced on October 19 there would be no change to electricity rates for the following six months.  That announcement was only the third time out of the last 18 since 2007 where rates didn’t increase.

Many commentators said, however, this can’t hold and the government has simply punted a rate increase down the road. So, what is likely to happen come Spring 2017?

We have some clues in recently released information. The IESO (Independent Electricity System Operator) just published the September 2016 Monthly Market Report which provides the Class B weighted average of both HOEP (hourly Ontario energy price) and the Global Adjustment for the first nine months of the current year, representing the commodity cost.  For the first nine months of 2016, the raw commodity cost’s “weighted average” was $110.93 per megawatt hour (MWh) compared to $98.88/MWh in 2015.

So, that would be up: that signals a 12.2% increase year over year in the electricity1. generation cost.

The IESO has also been posting the consumption and costs of the HOEP and the GA for each of the two customer classes A and B; if you calculate the difference between Class A and Class B consumption and costs for the same period as noted above you discover this.

  • Class A ratepayers increased consumption by 2 terawatts (TWh) from 19 TWh to 21 TWh whereas Class B ratepayers decreased their consumption from 87 TWh in 2015 to 86 TWh year over year.
  • Class A ratepayers paid $70 million more for the additional 2 TWh which was at the bargain price of 3.5 cents per kWh. The raw commodity cost for Class A ratepayers declined from $65.42/MWh in 2015 to $62.50/MWh in 2016 for a 4.4% reduction.

Class B ratepayers may have reduced the electricity consumption (by 1 TWh or 1 billion kWh) but they paid an additional $893 million over 2015.   The extra cost for Class B ratepayers of 1.04 cents per kWh is equivalent to just over $90 a year for the “average” household.

That cost will presumably find its way to the next announcement in mid-April 2017 when the OEB tells us what households will be paying for the six months commencing May 1, 2017.

The Class B to Class A shift will increase further (implementation date has not been announced) in the future, based on Energy Minister Thibeault’s announcement in a press release on September 15, 2016, granting an additional 1,000 plus companies access to the Industrial Conservation Initiative (ICI) program.

The balancing act of trying to retain jobs while greening Ontario’s energy generation via the Class B to Class A subsidy (now approaching $1 billion annually) appears set to create more energy poverty in the Class B group despite removal of the 8% provincial portion of the HST.

The Spring forecast? Increased electricity rates.

Parker Gallant

1. This does not include transmission, regulatory, distribution, etc. costs.