Monday, 25 April 2016

Back to Hydro One-derland

Just like Wiarton Willie showed up on February 2 with his spring prognostication, the Ontario Energy Board announced in mid-April that effective May 1, rates for customers of Hydro One would be going up. Again.

So what else is new? Actually, the reason rates are going up is worth looking at. It shows the ongoing Alice in Wonderland world which customers of Hydro One have to live in. To put it succinctly, rates are going up because electricity use is going down. That’s right. Electricity use in Ontario is declining, so rates paid to Hydro One are going up to cover their costs.

When I bought my house a year ago, I took the opportunity to do a complete review and assessment of the house’s energy efficiency. Insulation? Check. Weather stripping? Check. Quality thermal windows? Check. Gas heat? Check. Energy efficient appliances? All but an electric hot water heater and clothes dryer. All lights either fluorescent or LED? Check.

Pretty good, I thought. The house is as energy efficient as I can make it. And the electricity bills this past winter reflected that. I wasn’t displeased. I mean we have been told for years and years to conserve, conserve, conserve. You will save money, Hydro One told us.

Not anymore. If you read the report the Ontario Energy Board makes to support Hydro One’s request for a rate increase, the justification sound like this. It was a minder than normal winter. Customer are using less electricity; so much less that Hydro One can’t cover their costs of production of that power and their support costs for the electrically system. They need more money.

The OEB supports the request. They have revised their profile of their “average consumer”. They say in their recent report supporting Hydro One’s rate increase request, “ Since late 2009, the OEB has defined the typical residential customer as a household that consumed 800 kWh of electricity per month. A recent review indicates that average residential consumption has declined significantly since the standard was last established. As a result, the OEB has determined that the standard used for illustrative purposes should now be 750 kWh per month.”

In other words, Hydro One customers have been good stewards of their resources, conserved energy, invested in energy saving technologies and reduced average consumption by almost 10%. Now have to pay more for that same electricity?

I have a suggestion for Hydro One. Instead of looking to their customers to pay for your failures, how about looking at all the employees who are on the Sunshine List? How about finding management efficiencies or changing plans to save costs, as most  businesses do? Just stop with the Alice in Wonderland logic. We are doing our best to conserve electricity in our lives. We deserve the benefits of being good energy stewards, not having to pay more for the privilege of buying our electricity from Hydro One.

Rev. David Shearman is a retired United Church minister in Owen Sound and the host of Faithworks on Rogers TV - Grey County.