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Over the past several months there has been a constant din of noise from all business segments in Ontario about the high price of electricity and its effects. Electricity prices have risen as they have absorbed the high costs of 20-year contracts for renewable energy in the form of wind and solar as additions to Ontario’s electricity grid. Ontario currently has a huge surplus which results in as much as 20 per cent of our generation exported at fire sale prices.
Couple that with a drop in demand, annual spending of $400 million on conservation messages, smart meters that allow time of use (TOU) pricing and the Hydro One, OPG and other Ministry of Energy employees enjoying wages and benefits that outstrip the private sector means electricity bills for all segments of businesses and households are now a drain on the economy versus an attraction for new business and the jobs they might create.
The foregoing recently manifested itself in a report from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce entitled: “Empowering Ontario: Constraining Costs and Staying Competitive in the Electricity Market.” The report stated soaring electricity prices would cause one (1) in 20 Ontario businesses to shut their doors within the next 5 years.
The report didn’t suggest how much electricity those 5 per cent of businesses consume or how many jobs would be lost but it should represent a concern to the ruling Liberal Party of Ontario. Should the scenario play out it would also result in a revenue drop for generators, transmitters and local distribution companies.
Due to how the electricity sector operates in Ontario a revenue drop results in rate increases to all remaining Ontario businesses and residential households.
The Chamber was not the first to note the problems with high electricity costs, as the Association of Major Power Consumers of Ontario (AMPCO) raised its concerns in a May 2015 release of its “Power Market Outlook” and the president was quoted in the media referencing large Ontario industrial concerns: “Not only are they paying very high costs for the commodity but they’re paying some of the highest delivery rates … so it’s not just a commodity cost problem, it’s not just a renewable energy or coal phase-out problem.”
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