Ontario’s power doofuses

Antonella Artuso  Toronto Sun

Turn your air conditioning down — that’s the unhelpful advice offered by the Ontario Power Authority to consumers trying to reduce their electricity bills this fall and winter.

Also in the “Fall & Winter” online seasonal power-saving tips from the OPA, clean and replace your air conditioner filter and close your blinds/curtains during the day — which is the opposite of the usual advice to save energy during the winter.

Oh, and don’t forget to use that clothesline, too.

Ontarians on smart meter pricing may want to look up more specific cold-weather tips when they switch over Monday to winter time-of-use (TOU) pricing.

It was originally pitched as a money-saving program but the average family — who can’t afford new energy-efficient appliances, or replace windows and furnaces — will likely end up paying more for power.

Between Nov. 1 and April 30, time-of-use (TOU) customers pay the highest price for electricity purchased between 7 a.m.-11 a.m. and 5 p.m.-9 p.m.

That means individuals and families will be paying the peak rate when many are getting ready for work or school, or returning for the evening to make dinner, do homework, wash the dishes and watch TV or go on the computer.

During the spring and summer months, the peak rate of 9.9 cents per kWh applies between 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Currently, just under one million Ontario households are on TOU pricing, but that will rise to 3.6 million households by next summer, and there’ll be province-wide implementation by the end of 2011.

The experience at Toronto Hydro is that about 60% of its customers saw an average rise in their bill of $1.40 a month, while about 40% saw a decrease of $3.70 a month, after switching to smart meters.

There’s an extra 68 cents per month to pay for the smart meter, too, until the Ontario Energy Board tells the utility to remove it.

Toronto Hydro says weather, not TOU rates, have the bigger impact on rates.

By definition, TOU pricing hits people with the highest rates when they’re most likely to use electricity.

The goal is to encourage customers to shift their electricity use to non-peak hours because it costs the electricity system more to build and maintain extra generation for specific times of the day.

Andrew Block, a spokesman for Ontario Energy Minister Brad Duguid, said TOU is supposed to reflect the true cost of power at the time it’s used.

Block said the minister has noted that the program is still in its early stages.

“Is this having the desired effect that we were looking for?” he said. “We do recognize certainly that there are some things that people won’t be able to shift over … and that some people won’t be able to find some ways to shift.”

The ministry is suggesting consumers try to shift whatever they can to off-peak hours, like the weekends, he said.

The government has also introduced a revamped energy and property tax credit to help seniors and low income earners cope what are higher energy bills in general.

NDP energy critic Peter Tabuns said the Ontario government would have been wiser to dedicate the smart meter budget to initiatives that help consumers conserve more energy through measures such as upgraded insulation or acquiring high-efficiency appliances.

“The problem most people have is they don’t have the cash to invest in energy saving technology,” he said. “They don’t have the tools to reduce use.”

Most electricity is heating, cooling, hot water and lighting, he said.

Tory energy critic John Yakabuski said the feedback he’s received suggests the smart meter program is not going well so far.

“This whole experiment, it just seems to have been so poorly thought out,” he said. “It seems an increased number of people are paying more and more for electricity every time these people come up with a new initiative. When the time of peak demands shifts during the winter months, when those days are shorter and there’s much less daylight, I think the bills are going to reflect it.”

9 thoughts on “Ontario’s power doofuses

  1. This article points out one of travesties of the worst electricity plan Ontario has ever seen. The people who can least afford it will take the brunt of the higher charges while the wealthier will have yet another thing to brag about at the next party when they become more efficient or shift their power usage and become even more “green”.

  2. When we got married 41 tears ago I had to hang our laundry outside no matter how cold because we could not afford a dryer, now I’m going to have to do it again because I won’t be able to afford to run the dryer. Usually in the winter we eat a lot of slow simmered stew and soups, won’t be able to because who can leave their stove on for a few hrs to cook them ? Turn down your heat when your not home to save money? not any more.

  3. As a stay at home Mom, I and my family have made huge sacrifices so that I am available in the critical early years of childhood development…. now you are going to penalize me for being at home and doing my housework during the week by this TOU pricing. This is ridiculous and unjust. I will not sit in the dark in my home all week, and then try to do all my laundry and cooking etc on off-peak weekends, or in the middle of the night. Enough is enough!!!!!!

  4. Oh great. And for those who are already doing every darn thing to save a cent on hydro, and don’t have a cent to spare… what’s their alternative, Dalton? Pay more? There is going to be a mass of residents who just plain well will not be able to afford this hydro. It will only get worse when all the jobs take a hike out Ontario with the business hydro bills skyrocketing….
    I think Dalton should lick that plug before he puts it in his nose, maybe then he’ll feel the kind of pain he’s inflicting on us.

  5. Going to be?…..it’s here now…………….many older folks up our way who are on a fixed income like Old Age Pension are selling their homes because they can’t afford water and Hydro…………same as the poor souls who’s health has been destroyed!

  6. Here’s a quick answer to all Rural Ontario’s problems with McGuinty:

    FEDERATION OF RURAL MUNICIPALITIES!

  7. Wasn’t Tabuns all for squandering money on these useless Industrial Wind Turbines?

  8. And it gets better…

    http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2010/11/01/john-ivison-quebec-should-be-embarrassed-by-powerline-protectionism/

    “The main lesson that readers should take away from this story is what a sorry admission of failure in Canadian federalism it represents. The obvious route to markets in Ontario and the U.S. for Lower Churchill’s power is overland through Quebec. Hydro-Québec claims that upgrades of up to $3-billion would be required to transport power through the province. Quebec’s energy board, the Régie de l’énergie, has sided with its own power corporation against Nalcor, even though it was prepared to pay for “reasonable upgrades” and up to $200-million in annual tariffs. Needless to say, Mr. Williams unleashed a broadside when the decision was announced in May, protesting Quebec’s “arrogance and discriminatory business practises”.”

    …but we have windmills — wheeeee!

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