TORONTO – The dirty little secret of Premier Dalton McGuinty’s “clean” electricity is that it’s gouging Ontario consumers coming and going.
First, we’re paying inflated prices for expensive and inefficient wind energy, one reason we’re facing an estimated 45% hike on our electricity bills over the next five years.
Second, because under the contracts the Liberal government signed with wind developers we have to use wind energy even if we don’t need it, consumers are also subsidizing the sale of cheap, surplus electricity to the U.S. and Quebec.
This electricity is so cheap the price often falls below zero-cents-per-kWh, meaning we literally have to pay other jurisdictions to take the surplus off our hands.
And yet as Ontario residential hydro customers, we can’t access this cheap electricity for ourselves.
As the Sun reported Tuesday, on Earth Day (Good Friday, April 22) Ontario hydro customers once again had to pay to export our surplus electricity to other jurisdictions, as we did on New Year’s Day.
In fact, this has already occurred more than two dozen times this year — usually for an hour or two at a time — costing Ontario electricity customers millions of dollars.
In fairness, at times we benefit from cheap, surplus electricity available in other jurisdictions.
But the concern is that with 5,000 megawatts of wind energy capacity coming online in Ontario by 2013, we could soon be faced with having to sell surplus electricity at a loss as often as one day in seven.
These surpluses, combined with the fact Ontario has to pay for wind energy first, create absurd situations in which we forgo using cheap, clean, reliable, hydro power, in order to pay for expensive, unreliable wind power, which we then sell at a loss.
Ironically, because wind power can’t deliver electricity on demand — since the wind doesn’t always blow — it has to be backed up, often by fossil fuel energy such as natural gas, which emits the greenhouse gases linked to climate change wind energy is supposed to reduce.
We intend to make Ontario’s bizarre electricity-pricing policies a major issue in this fall’s election.
But beyond bashing the Liberals for bungling the file, the Tories and NDP must explain how they plan to help consumers already struggling with high electricity bills.