Monday, July 3, 2017

Premier Wynne's neglecting business

"Small business optimism in Ontario took a nosedive in June."

So begins the Ontario section of the Business Barometer from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). The members of the CFIB have legitimate reasons to be pessimistic. In this post I will demonstrate the indifference to the needs of employers in the current Ontario government's electricity policies, with a particular focus on the unfairness of the so-called Fair Hydro Plan.

I recently spoke with Jocelyn Bamford of the Coalition of Concerned Manufacturers. The group has been in the press due to electricity cost concerns, but other concerns are newly presented to these employers, by the provincial government. I perceive 3 primary concerns:
  1. Electricity
  2. Cap and Trade
  3. Labour costs
I'll begin with electricity. 

As context for the following information on rates in Toronto, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). American data shows U.S. residential consumers pay 86% more for a unit of electricity than industrial consumers, and about 20% more then commercial consumers. The definitions of groups don't work well in comparing to Toronto, but note small consumers pay, on average, the most per unit, and largest the least. 

On July 1st rates dropped for Ontario consumers charged on Regulated Price Plans (RPP), due to legislation dubbed a "Fair Hydro Plan" (FHP). I pulled average consumption levels for residential and other customers of Toronto Hydro from the spreadsheet accompanying the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) 2015 Annual Yearbook of Electricity Distributors, calculated average monthly figures and fed those into the OEB's Bill Calculator for Toronto Hydro customers. For non-RPP consumers (Class A and B) I found a Toronto Hydro presentation considering monthly figures for one consumer (on slides 19 and 20). There are some issues the presentation data, but the 18 cents/kWh for Class B consumers is what I expected.

Not only do "Class B" industrial users not enjoy preferential electricity pricing, they probably pay more than the average Toronto household. This is exceptionally rare. I can find instances of American utilities charging industrial consumers more than residential ones, but nothing for a decade among utilities the size of Toronto Hydro with one notable exception: Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. [1] Ontarians might be interested in knowing the territory of that utility includes the American cousins of Niagara and St. Lawrence river power plants (in Canada, Beck and Saunders). Legal cases have established set uses for the power produced by the big public hydroelectric plants in the New York. Regardless, it's been 6 years since even that utility saw residential rates lower than industrial ones.