Monday, December 2, 2013

Hydro bills to rise - Energy Plan

The province’s new energy strategy places a strong emphasis on conservation and signals the Liberal government’s intention to create new tools for Ontarians to retrofit windows and home furnaces to increase energy efficiency, but hydro bills will keep rising.

Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli was set to release the plan Monday at Queen’s Park, but the opposition was already rolling its eyes before the plan was even tabled.

During a morning press conference, Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak said the Liberals’ long-term energy blueprint is a short-term plan to get through the next election, but one that comes with long-term consequences for consumers and manufacturers.

Hydro rates will continue to climb and more Ontarians will be put out of work because of this plan, Hudak said.

The Tories are strong advocates for nuclear and hydroelectricity, which they prefer over wind turbines and solar farms.

“Energy should be viewed from the basis of what it does to grow our economy and create jobs, not a social program or way to get a pat on the back from (former U.S. vice president) Al Gore,” Hudak said.

The government says the 87-page plan focuses on energy conservation; a clean, reliable and diverse energy supply; and ensuring affordability for consumers.

It also touches on regional planning, innovation, investments in transmission and the participation of aboriginal communities in the energy sector.

The plan says the province is expected to reduce projected cost increases by $16 billion between now and 2017 and $70 billion to 2030, even as Ontario sticks with its intention to phase out the last of it coal-fired generation by the end of 2014.

As for consumers, the province says residential customers can expect to pay about $520 less over the next five years and $3,800 less between now and 2030, while industrial customers can expect to pay $3 million less over the next five years and $11 million less between now and 2030.

But hydro bills will still climb — from an average monthly cost of $138 this year to $178 by 2018 (based on an average household use of 800 kWh). By 2032, bills will have climbed by 50 per cent.

There are no major generation projects unveiled in the plan.

The province says it will decrease need for new supply by implementing conservation programs and standards to offset most growth in electricity demand over the next two decades.

It says demand for electricity has declined because of across-the-board reductions by the average household, business and industrial user, as well as changes to the composition of the province’s industrial manufacturing sector, and notable increases in energy efficiency and conservation programs.

The plan also calls for the:
— creating of new “financing tools” for consumers starting in 2015, including on-bill financing for energy efficiency retrofits, such as new windows or furnaces
— expanding Demand Response programs to help achieve a 10 per cent reduction in peak demand by 2025, which the report says is equivalent to approximately 2,400 megawatts under current forecast conditions
— refurbishing of nuclear plants at both Darlington and Bruce generating stations, starting in 2016. But, as reported previously, Ontario will not build two new nuclear reactors at Darlington, a decision that cost taxpayers $181 million.
— extending the phasing-in of wind, solar and bioenergy to bring 10,700 megawatts online by 2021; by 2025, about half of Ontario’s installed generating capacity will come from renewable sources, the government says
— launching a new procurement process next year for new renewable energy projects larger than 500 kilowatts to take into account “local needs and considerations”
— issuing an annual report on the province’s changing supply and demand conditions and to outline progress on achieving goals contained in LTEP

Update: New retrofit program unveiled in energy plan; hydro bills will rise

By Matthew Pearson, OTTAWA CITIZEN

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