Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Ontario government acting like small manufacturers' bad boyfriend

We are tripling the size of the cut we're making to people's hydro bills from 8% to an average of 25%. - Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne
On March 2nd the Premier of Ontario announced "Fair Hydro Plan" actions "cutting electricity bills by 25 per cent." The announced actions cut no actual costs. To the contrary, interest expenses are expected to climb to $1.4 billion annually, perhaps totaling $25 billion in the fullness of time. Perhaps $40 billion.

My two previous posts have looked at rate components from a residential bill perspective, and an overall system supply cost perspective. I hope I have communicated that rates have risen substantially due to one small set of recently contracted supply, while nuclear and hydro provided the bulk of supply but little of the cost increases - and that not all consumer groups shared the burden of the rate increases. In this post I'll review the politics of recent electricity pricing policy decisions.
"We feel that a lot of manufacturers are the middle child that are completely left out...They saw almost nothing in the recent announcements." 
Jocelyn Bamford - Coalition of Concerned Manufacturers
It's been over 6 weeks since the government announced it's so-called "Fair Hydro Plan", and while some details will remain sketchy until enabling legislation/regulation is introduced, the overall intent is clear. Ontario governments reacting to increases in electricity prices with rash programs to calm the populace are nothing new, but the current government's targeting of rate reductions is.
Graphic originally from Ontario’s perceived electricity cost inflation

Significant previous actions include the rate freeze introduced in the early 1990's by the NDP government headed by Bob Rae, and a rate freeze introduced a decade later by the Progressive Conservative (PC) government headed by Ernie Eves. An article from November 2002 puts into perspective the long duration of the rate freeze: