October 26, 2017 4:28 pm
Updated: October 26, 2017 4:48 pm

Ontario Liberals say hydro bills will increase by 43% over next decade

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If you live in Ontario your hydro bills are going up, according to the most recent projections made by Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government.

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Released Thursday, the 2017 Long-Term Energy Plan is the government’s most recent attempt to clean up the mistakes it says it’s made in managing the province’s electricity sector over the past decade.

According to the plan, average hydro bills in Ontario will rise from $127 in 2017 to $181 in 2027, a jump of roughly 43 per cent.

Bills will then continue to rise for three more years before finally leveling off to just below an average of $200 a month in 2030.

READ MORE: Customers could pay steep price for Ontario’s hydro plan, auditor warns

While these increases are significant – as much as 55 per cent above current costs – the government says price predictions are still roughly $20 a month less than its previous estimates.

“We will strive to make energy more affordable and give customers more choices,” said Glenn Thibeault, Ontario’s Minister of Energy. “Ontarians are benefiting from the years of investment we have made in the province’s electricity system. We can be proud of what we have all accomplished.”

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According to the plan, the savings when compared to past long-term energy plans are the result of cancelling several major energy projects – like building two new nuclear reactors at the Darlington Generating Station – and moving away from long-term, fixed-price energy contracts like the now infamous, multi-billion dollar deal between Samsung and the province to purchase wind and solar energy.

“This plan is the product of the most extensive consultations and engagements my ministry has ever undertaken,” Thibeault said. “Initiatives such as Market Renewal [competitive bidding for energy contracts] will ensure the province has appropriate sources of electricity at the lowest possible price.”

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The plan also focuses on increasing consumer protection – especially for those living in condos and multi-unit buildings – and giving customers greater choice when it comes to how they purchase electricity.

For example, the province says it’s launched several pilot projects experimenting with possible changes to time-of-use billing (the different prices paid for electricity depending on the time of day it’s used).

This is consistent with previous statements made by Thibeault, who has said he would like to see electricity customers have a range of billing options similar to those offered by mobile phone and internet providers.

Critics question plan’s legitimacy

Despite the plan’s rosy predictions, critics of the Liberals’ handling of Ontario’s electricity sector say the government has a terrible track record when it comes to keeping its promises on energy.

In 2010 and then again in 2013, the government pursued an aggressive strategy of phasing out coal in favour of renewable green energy.

WATCH: What is the Global Adjustment fee? The mysterious fee Ontario hydro customers must pay

While the result of this initiative was a dramatic reduction in the province’s greenhouse gas emissions – cutting the annual number of smog advisories in Toronto from 53 to zero – many have argued the government’s energy plans could have been implemented more effectively, particularly when it comes to cost.

“Really this document is their election platform,” said Tom Adams, an energy consultant and long-time critic of the government’s handling of the electricity sector. “It has all the credibility and weight and gravitas of their version of the little red book.”

READ MORE: What is the Global Adjustment fee? The mysterious cost Ontarians hydro customers must pay

In 2015, Ontario’s Auditor General, Bonnie Lysyk, released a scathing report on the government’s handling of the electricity sector. She said that between 2006 and 2014, Ontarians paid as much as $37 billion more for electricity than they should have as a result of the government’s plans.

In the same report, Lysyk predicted Ontarians would pay an additional $133 billion in charges between 2015 and 2032 as a result of the Global Adjustment fee, a mysterious charge that’s hidden on the bills of most residential customers.

Subsides keep bills low

A major pillar of Thursday’s announcement is the previously released Fair Hydro Plan, which promises to reduce monthly electricity bills in the province by an average of 25 per cent over the next four years.

The government says these subsides are needed to assist Ontarians struggling with skyrocketing energy costs. The plan also talks about the importance of continuing assistance targeted specifically toward low-income families – such as the Ontario Electricity Support Program and Rural and Remote Rate Protection.

READ MORE: Ontario Energy Minister admits mistake with green energy program

But according to a report released last week by Lysyk, this plan, too, will cost Ontarians billions more than the government estimates.

Lysyk said the government’s Fair Hydro Plan would add an additional $39.4 billion in debt to the province’s electricity system – all of which will need to be paid back by energy customers, and will eventually lead to much higher bills.

“Nothing in [this plan] is real,” said Adams. “None of it means anything because whoever wins the next election – it might be these guys – they’ll make it up on the fly. This is the way this [electricity] cookie crumbles, and it has for years now.”

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