Hor­wath says she can cut hy­dro bills up to 30%

NDP leader and Hamil­ton Cen­tre MPP re­leases plan she says re­duces bills and re­turns Hy­dro One to pub­lic hands

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - AL­LI­SON JONES

ELEC­TRIC­ITY BILLS in On­tario could be cut by end­ing manda­tory time-of-use pric­ing, re­duc­ing the de­liv­ery charge for ru­ral cus­tomers and rene­go­ti­at­ing power con­tracts, the NDP has pro­posed.

The party re­leased its plan both for re­duc­ing hy­dro bills by up to 30 per cent and re­turn­ing Hy­dro One to pub­lic own­er­ship, ahead of an up­com­ing an­nounce­ment from the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment about how it will cut costs.

“I think it would be fan­tas­tic if the Lib­er­als took this plan and im­ple­mented it,” NDP Leader An­drea Hor­wath said Mon­day.

“Elec­tric­ity isn’t a lux­ury. It shouldn’t be priced like one and peo­ple want some­thing done about it.”

The gov­ern­ment faces no big­ger po­lit­i­cal is­sue at the mo­ment than hy­dro bills, which have about dou­bled in the last decade, and Premier Kath­leen Wynne has promised that fur­ther relief — on top of an eight per cent re­bate that took ef­fect Jan. 1 — will be an­nounced be­fore the spring bud­get.

Wynne has al­ready sig­nalled that more sav­ings will be com­ing for ru­ral and north­ern ratepay­ers, who face sig­nif­i­cantly higher costs than ur­ban cus­tomers, and En­ergy Min­is­ter Glenn Thibeault sug­gested that changes are on the way for time-of-use pric­ing.

“Time of use is some­thing that ac­tu­ally saves our sys­tem money, so we can’t get rid of time of use al­to­gether, but what we can do is en­sure that peo­ple have a choice,” he said.

“Elim­i­nat­ing time of use would ac­tu­ally mean that our peak hours, our peak de­mand would ac­tu­ally in­crease and that means we would need to cre­ate more gen­er­a­tion, pos­si­bly.”

The NDP plan would see cus­tomers ei­ther choose to stay on time-of-use

billing or pay a fixed rate of 10.3 cents per kilo­watt hour, higher than the cur­rent off-peak rate but lower than the cur­rent mid- and on-peak rates.

“The time-of-use plan was a fail­ure,” said Hor­wath. “It didn’t pro­vide the kind of con­ser­va­tion or the kind of re­duc­tion in use that the Lib­er­als had hoped and it didn’t help peo­ple to keep their bills down.”

The Lib­er­als re­sponded con­sid­er­ably less favourably to the idea of not only stop­ping any fur­ther sale of Hy­dro One shares but also buy­ing back the 30 per cent al­ready pri­va­tized.

“That is the one thing that would not take a penny off peo­ple’s elec­tric­ity bills,” Wynne said in ques­tion pe­riod. In de­fend­ing the par­tial pri­va­ti­za­tion, the Lib­er­als have of­ten re­minded that it’s the On­tario En­ergy Board that sets rates.

The NDP pro­poses buy­ing those shares back at a cost of be­tween $3.3 bil­lion and $4.1 bil­lion, fi­nanced through the prov­ince’s share of its profit from Hy­dro One within eight years — as­sum­ing 70 per cent of the ap­prox­i­mately $700 mil­lion in rev­enue it has pre­vi­ously gen­er­ated for the prov­ince.

As the util­ity is tran­si­tioned back to pub­lic own­er­ship, the NDP said a $2.6-bil­lion tax ben­e­fit given to Hy­dro One in the process of pri­va­ti­za­tion could be used to sub­si­dize a drop in bills of 3.2 per cent. The NDP’s plan also in­cludes cap­ping profit mar­gins for pri­vate power com­pa­nies and es­tab­lish­ing a panel to ex­am­ine can­celling or rene­go­ti­at­ing long-term power con­tracts at above-mar­ket rates.

The Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives have also called for such con­tracts to be rene­go­ti­ated. The Lib­er­als fre­quently note they saved $3.7 bil­lion by rene­go­ti­at­ing a green en­ergy deal with Sam­sung but Thibeault said do­ing so with ev­ery con­tract would take years. “They can’t just be can­celled be­cause it would cost us bil­lions of dol­lars in terms of these can­celled con­tracts, which would then go back onto the ratepayer and we would be in court for ev­ery con­tract we would rip up,” he said.

The NDP also pro­posed mak­ing per­ma­nent the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment’s eight-per-cent re­bate on bills while also ne­go­ti­at­ing with Ot­tawa to re­move the fed­eral por­tion of HST from bills. It wants to re­duce the de­liv­ery charge for ru­ral Hy­dro One cus­tomers so they pay the same fee as ur­ban cus­tomers, funded through a wa­ter rental fee paid by On­tario Power Gen­er­a­tion for wa­ter flow­ing through dams, be­tween $330 mil­lion and $350 mil­lion per year.

NDP Leader An­drea Hor­wath has pro­posed changes in elec­tric­ity pric­ing that could re­duce rates by as much as 30 per cent.

DAR­REN CAL­ABRESE, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Hy­dro tow­ers are seen over a golf course in Toronto. “Elec­tric­ity isn’t a lux­ury. It shouldn’t be priced like one,” says NDP Leader An­drea Hor­wath.

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