Proposed Horizon Utilities merger won't stop electricity price shocks

Opinion Apr 23, 2015 Ancaster News

The contrast couldn’t be more stark.

As Ontario Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli was in Hamilton touting the benefits of a proposed merger between Horizon Utilities and three other electrical distributors that would cushion any rate hikes, the Ontario Energy Board announced a new wave of time of use pricing increases for the already cash-strapped customer.

Despite the past mergers, and other efforts to keep rates low, the energy board approved requests that will see the peak rate jump to 16 cents kWh from 14 cents, while off-peak power rates will nudge up to 8 cents from 7.7 cents. Mid-peak rates will rise to 12.2 cents from 11.4 cents. The rate increases will mean for the average household a $5.71 or 4.6 per cent jump in their monthly hydro bill.

So much for protecting consumers.

But then again, the entire energy strategy Ontario has followed over the last decade seems to have benefited stockholders and Hydro One staff more than the public.

Horizon Utility Corporation does seem to have had a relatively successful history over the last 14 years of providing service to its customers, while also bailing out the City of Hamilton with significant dividends. During those years Horizon managed to merge the previous suburban utilities relatively easily in 2000, while also amalgamating with St. Catharines Hydro in 2005. The proposed merger with Enersource, PowerStream and Hydro Brampton will make the corporation the second largest distribution entity in the province.

However, the greater concern is what the province is proposing to do with Ontario Hydro. The idea, according to the Liberals, who are acting more like Mike Harris Progressive Conservatives every day, is to sell 60 per cent of the Crown agency, while the province retains 40 per cent ownership, which, they argue, will help provide some sort of protection to customers.

The Liberals are also counting on the Ontario Energy Board to be a firewall against exorbitant rate increases. A firewall that has been known to go out at moments when business interests are at stake.

The “bigger is better” scenario may be good for shareholders, but as always there is a real fear that ratepayers will end up getting shocked in the end.

Public ownership of such essential services as water and electricity should be considered a no-brainer. Hamilton’s merger, which once the dust settles will still keep the utility in public hands, could prove to be beneficial as past examples have shown. Ontario’s desperate attempt at selling off Ontario Hydro for needed cash to build infrastructure smacks of a failed, convoluted strategy.

Proposed Horizon Utilities merger won't stop electricity price shocks

Opinion Apr 23, 2015 Ancaster News

The contrast couldn’t be more stark.

As Ontario Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli was in Hamilton touting the benefits of a proposed merger between Horizon Utilities and three other electrical distributors that would cushion any rate hikes, the Ontario Energy Board announced a new wave of time of use pricing increases for the already cash-strapped customer.

Despite the past mergers, and other efforts to keep rates low, the energy board approved requests that will see the peak rate jump to 16 cents kWh from 14 cents, while off-peak power rates will nudge up to 8 cents from 7.7 cents. Mid-peak rates will rise to 12.2 cents from 11.4 cents. The rate increases will mean for the average household a $5.71 or 4.6 per cent jump in their monthly hydro bill.

So much for protecting consumers.

But then again, the entire energy strategy Ontario has followed over the last decade seems to have benefited stockholders and Hydro One staff more than the public.

Horizon Utility Corporation does seem to have had a relatively successful history over the last 14 years of providing service to its customers, while also bailing out the City of Hamilton with significant dividends. During those years Horizon managed to merge the previous suburban utilities relatively easily in 2000, while also amalgamating with St. Catharines Hydro in 2005. The proposed merger with Enersource, PowerStream and Hydro Brampton will make the corporation the second largest distribution entity in the province.

However, the greater concern is what the province is proposing to do with Ontario Hydro. The idea, according to the Liberals, who are acting more like Mike Harris Progressive Conservatives every day, is to sell 60 per cent of the Crown agency, while the province retains 40 per cent ownership, which, they argue, will help provide some sort of protection to customers.

The Liberals are also counting on the Ontario Energy Board to be a firewall against exorbitant rate increases. A firewall that has been known to go out at moments when business interests are at stake.

The “bigger is better” scenario may be good for shareholders, but as always there is a real fear that ratepayers will end up getting shocked in the end.

Public ownership of such essential services as water and electricity should be considered a no-brainer. Hamilton’s merger, which once the dust settles will still keep the utility in public hands, could prove to be beneficial as past examples have shown. Ontario’s desperate attempt at selling off Ontario Hydro for needed cash to build infrastructure smacks of a failed, convoluted strategy.

Proposed Horizon Utilities merger won't stop electricity price shocks

Opinion Apr 23, 2015 Ancaster News

The contrast couldn’t be more stark.

As Ontario Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli was in Hamilton touting the benefits of a proposed merger between Horizon Utilities and three other electrical distributors that would cushion any rate hikes, the Ontario Energy Board announced a new wave of time of use pricing increases for the already cash-strapped customer.

Despite the past mergers, and other efforts to keep rates low, the energy board approved requests that will see the peak rate jump to 16 cents kWh from 14 cents, while off-peak power rates will nudge up to 8 cents from 7.7 cents. Mid-peak rates will rise to 12.2 cents from 11.4 cents. The rate increases will mean for the average household a $5.71 or 4.6 per cent jump in their monthly hydro bill.

So much for protecting consumers.

But then again, the entire energy strategy Ontario has followed over the last decade seems to have benefited stockholders and Hydro One staff more than the public.

Horizon Utility Corporation does seem to have had a relatively successful history over the last 14 years of providing service to its customers, while also bailing out the City of Hamilton with significant dividends. During those years Horizon managed to merge the previous suburban utilities relatively easily in 2000, while also amalgamating with St. Catharines Hydro in 2005. The proposed merger with Enersource, PowerStream and Hydro Brampton will make the corporation the second largest distribution entity in the province.

However, the greater concern is what the province is proposing to do with Ontario Hydro. The idea, according to the Liberals, who are acting more like Mike Harris Progressive Conservatives every day, is to sell 60 per cent of the Crown agency, while the province retains 40 per cent ownership, which, they argue, will help provide some sort of protection to customers.

The Liberals are also counting on the Ontario Energy Board to be a firewall against exorbitant rate increases. A firewall that has been known to go out at moments when business interests are at stake.

The “bigger is better” scenario may be good for shareholders, but as always there is a real fear that ratepayers will end up getting shocked in the end.

Public ownership of such essential services as water and electricity should be considered a no-brainer. Hamilton’s merger, which once the dust settles will still keep the utility in public hands, could prove to be beneficial as past examples have shown. Ontario’s desperate attempt at selling off Ontario Hydro for needed cash to build infrastructure smacks of a failed, convoluted strategy.