TORONTO – A $350-a-year hike is in store for the average Ontario household’s hydro bill, critics said yesterday as they warned that figure could double once the province’s green energy subsidies are rolled out.
An 8 per cent increase in domestic electricity costs announced yesterday is the latest in a series of fees that will drive up costs, and that’s before the subsidies, the Opposition said.
“People in this province are seeing increases that are putting them at the point where they can no longer cope with the prices of energy, and we haven’t seen them all,” said Progressive Conservative energy critic John Yakabuski.
“It’s going to get worse.”
The Ontario Energy Board said the new prices, which amount to about $7.60 a month and take effect May 1, apply to homes that don’t have so-called smart meters, devices that record time-of-day usage.
Those with the meters will see a more modest increase of 5.8 per cent, or about $5.79 per month.
It’s the latest in a series of hikes that include an additional $5 per month on hydro bills by 2012 as part of an $8-billion plan to create more renewable energy in Ontario.
There is also a new charge to help cover $53 million of the Liberal government’s conservation and green-energy program.
That fee was quietly introduced three weeks ago, and is expected to add about $4 a year to the average electricity bill. That’s on top of the extra 8 per cent consumers will have to pay when the 13 per cent HST takes effect in July.
Energy Minister Brad Duguid said the price of electricity is going up everywhere and argued some increases are warranted as the province moves toward greener, cleaner power.
It’s still too early to say what the total increases will eventually amount to, Duguid said, since there are still too many green energy and nuclear projects being developed to nail down specific numbers.
“We’re modernizing our nuclear fleet, we’re in the process of negotiating two new nuclear units (and) we haven’t even arrived at a price or a cost yet, so it’s premature to be speculating on those kinds of costs,” Duguid said.
“Those cost estimates have been rolled out as best as possible.”
Yakabuski said the government’s energy plans are inflating electricity bills by $350 a year — a figure that could double as more green energy subsidies are doled out.
Taxpayers may be willing to pay more for cleaner energy, but they need to know what types of increases they’re being asked to agree to, Yakabuski said: “The problem is what’s going to come in the energy bills in the future that this government doesn’t want to talk about. They’re selling the effects of (green energy) as being huge but not talking about the effect on price, and they need to be honest about that.”
The New Democrats support the push toward green energy, but they argue it’s nuclear and gas-fired plants that are behind the cost increases.
“(Premier) Dalton McGuinty has decided to go with the highest cost he can: time-of-use meters that are not going to save energy and are going to drive up costs, nuclear power that’s very expensive … gas-fired power plants that are dependent on the price of gas,” said Peter Tabuns, the Ontario NDP’s energy critic.
“They have made huge mistakes on the electricity file, and people are going to have to pay for it.”