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Ontario hydro rates to rise

Ontario’s new long-term energy plan was unveiled on Monday afternoon and calls for the average bill to go up about $14 per month next year, the year after that and the year after that.

The Liberals are defending a 33 per cent electricity rate hike over three years.

However, Energy minister Bob Chiarelli claims that the average homeowner will pay about $100 a year less than they would have if the Liberals hadn’t killed plans to build two new nuclear reactors, renegotiated its green energy deal with Samsung and started paying wind farms not to produce electricity when it’s not needed.

“Significant ratepayer savings will be realized as a result of reduced feed-in-tariff prices, the ability to dispatch wind generation, the amended (Samsung) agreement and the decision to defer new nuclear,” he said in the report.

The $1.1-billion the Liberals spent to cancel two gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga prior to the 2011 election will be more than offset by nearly $16 billion in reduced spending in the new plan from the 2010 version, added Chiarelli.

The Liberals will proceed with the refurbishment of nuclear reactors at the Darlington and Bruce generating stations starting in 2016, and plan to shutdown the Pickering nuclear station by 2020 at the latest.

However, the new plan also calls for the government to go slower as it phases in more renewable sources of electricity, and expect to have half of generation capacity from green sources such as wind and solar by 2025.

A key part of the revised plan includes what the government calls “on-bill financing for energy efficiency retrofits” starting in 2015, which would provide upfront loans for home renovations which would be paid back through electricity bills.

The Liberal strategy won’t bring hydro rates under control or bring back lost jobs, but will drive more companies out of Ontario, warned PC Leader Tim Hudak, who also lashed out at the New Democrats for supporting the minority government.

“This is a government that’s actually doubled hydro rates and chased 300,000 manufacturing jobs out of the province,” said Hudak.

“Half those job losses and half those rate increases should be on the back of (NDP Leader) Andrea Horwath and the NDP because they keep propping up the Liberals.”

Horwath said Ontario families and businesses pay the highest electricity rates in Canada because of the Liberal government’s policies.

“This doesn’t look like a plan for affordable power,” Horwath told the legislature. “It looks like a desperate government trying to hold on to political power.”

Horwath attacked the Liberals for spending $180-million on nuclear plants that were cancelled, nearly $1 billion on nuclear refurbishment plans “without a final price tag,” and $1.1-billion spent to cancel two gas plants “to save a couple of Liberal seats.

“How can the premier expect the people to believe that this government has a plan to make electricity affordable,” asked Horwath.

Nuclear will remain the largest component of Ontario’s electricity mix, but is expected to fall to about 47 per cent from around 55 per cent in the new plan, which reflects the fact that the province will stop burning coal to generate power by the end of this year.

Here are some energy-saving tips courtesy of Toronto Hydro:

  • Keep all your exterior doors tightly shut and try to avoid frequent in-and-out traffic. Padded door runners help reduce drafts under doorways.
  • Lower your thermostat by one degree to save as much as three per cent of the energy your furnace uses during the winter months. For the average electrically heated detached house built before 1990, that could be a savings of approximately $73.39 per year.
  • Keep the draperies and shades on your south-facing windows open during sunny days to allow the sunlight to enter and heat your home. Keep them closed at night to reduce the chill you may feel around cold windows.
  • Wrap your windows with plastic. Twenty-five per cent of a home’s heat is lost through windows and this low-cost option can reduce this loss by 50 per cent.
  • Adjust your thermostat. Recommended thermostat settings for a comfortable environment during the winter months are:

–  21.0C (70.0F) when you are home relaxing
–  18.0C (64.50F) when you are sleeping, and
–  15.0C (59.0F) when you are away from your home for an extended period of time.