Off-peak hydro rate too high: Environmental Commissioner of Ontario

Environmental Commissioner, Gord Miller

Lee Greenberg, Canwest News Service 

TORONTO – A $2-billion program aimed at shifting home-energy use to off-peak hours is about to fail, says the province’s chief environmental watchdog.

Gord Miller, Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, says millions of so-called smart meters will be useless unless the government changes course and sets a sufficiently low hydro rate to convince people to do their laundry and dishes at night and on weekends.

Rate increases announced this week show a “disturbing” move in the opposite direction, Mr. Miller said.

Off-peak power rates jumped 20%, disproportionately high compared to peak daytime rates.

The increase means peak rates are now only 1.9 times greater than off-peak rates (which run from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. and throughout weekends).

To successfully persuade people to change their behaviour, Mr. Miller said, off-peak should be three to five times less expensive.

“I’m watching this very closely because I don’t think this is enough,” he said. “I don’t think people will change because there is not enough incentive.”

The smart-meter initiative, which involves the installation of 3.6 million of the devices by the end of 2011, has been a focal point in the government’s energy-conservation plan since 2004. The meters, which cost an average of $161 per unit, allow local utilities to gauge not only how much, but when power is used in homes.

The intention was to offer a financial reward to residential customers who shifted their consumption to nighttime, when they would not compete with business customers.

Energy policy expert Mark Winfield, a professor at York University, agreed with Mr. Miller.

“It sends a potentially contradictory signal,” he said.

A 2007 trial in Ottawa found 375 households saved an average of just $1.44 per month through time-of-use pricing when peak rates were three times as expensive as off-peak.

If those results are transposed onto the current hydro-rate landscape, where the incentive is considerably diminished, the results will be even more lacklustre.

“The magnitude of the reward isn’t enough to make this successful,” Mr. Miller said.

The government pegs the cost of the smart meters at $1-billion. Other observers, such as consultant Tom Adams, say the cost is closer to $2-billion.

Energy Minister Brad Duguid said he is open to “tweaking” the time-of-use rates.

“It’s a work in progress,” he said. “I’m not going to conclude this is a success or failure until it’s had some time to work its way in.”

Under the new rates announced this week, peak pricing will be 9.9¢ a kw/h beginning on May 1. The off-peak price will be 5.3¢ a kw/h. The Ontario Energy Board, responsible for setting the prices, said the increase will add $7.60 — or 8% — to the average monthly hydro bill.

The increased prices reflect the higher costs of new power coming online, including a raft of solar and wind projects that will cost considerably more than the market electricity price.

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10 thoughts on “Off-peak hydro rate too high: Environmental Commissioner of Ontario

  1. “Smart” is “Dumb” ………”Black is White”……..”Saving the world means Killing the Land”……….how much more upside down does this Government have to be to wake up the people of Ontario that McGuiinty and Gang are not here to “Represent” but to “Attack” the citizens of this Province?

  2. Luckily for the Ontario Liberal Government, they have no credibility to lose on these issues….

    Misguided spending (Investment ????) in the Green Energy Act will continue with absolutely no benefit to Ontario consumers…

    Rates will still go thru the roof…

    Have you had enough Government Leadership yet ???

    Conservation means taxing the crap out of resource thru higher usage fees….

    This could have been done without the Ontario Liberal Government decided to spend $12 Billion on money that they don’t have….

    What a Great Legacy for Dalton….The FAKE Green Energy Premier….Not ready for PEAK time…

  3. The fix this government will think about is to make the peak power even higher than it is. What an opportunity to get more money from the ratepayer. Gord Miller better watch what he is asking the government to fix.

  4. I have filed suit against hydro ottawa and am seeking to add the Ontario Energy Board as parties. I could use some information and support but only have slowspeed internet and it is getting painfull doing searches.

  5. Perhaps the obvious point is that the move was simply a price increase disguised as Green Initiative.

    Alternatively it could simply be ignorance of the Government Ministers and bureaucrats. i.e. they did not calculate what the effects might be, because they did not think about it.

    For example, how many people would run through three sets of place settings during the day and then wash the dishes at night to save on the power bill. Is this likely for a family of two, three or four? Does the strategy make sense considering that you would have to purchase additional place settings?

    Most of the soaps for Laundry and dishes (In the Northern Hemisphere) are formulated to use Warm or hot water. In warm climates they are often reformulated to use lukewarm water as the storage unit sits on the roof (Tinacos) and gets warmed by the sun and the atmosphere. (In the winter you get cold showers if you can’t afford a gas water heater.) Interesting idea for a climate where water freezes.

    Lets’ put washing for a large family on the same basis. Increase the amount of clothes purchased? After all the idea of washing late at night then running the dryer is a little silly. Buy a clothes drying rack for your condo. How about a de-humidifier too?

    Many of these options require more storage area — and possibly a large house.

    It make you wonder if they thought through the strategies that would have to be implemented to change the time-of-use schedule for power…

    At least some will wonder if they applied any though to formulate their “brilliant” policies. I have no such illusions.

    Since my wife is a shift worker, the change in time-of-use lasted about a month. Then she decided that the inconvenience was too great — as half the time the required uniforms were “in the wash”.

    So much for GREEN.

    All hail the silly season and the silly government.

    All hail the Naked Emperor!

  6. What was the point in the SMART Meter? The purpose I thought was to save money, apparently this is not happening–an independent audit should be done on Hydro One–it seems by today’s standards everything is SMART except us humans who buy into this constant rhetoric–

  7. Pingback: Michael’s Blog » Heating System Update

  8. The best way to get lower meter readings would be to hook up a smart meter directly to Dalton Mcbraindeads head and a windturbine to his mouth
    ..there would be zeros all across the board yet the energy surge through the turbine would be unlimited megawatts!

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