Last Updated: September 19, 2010 2:00am
Premier Dalton McGuinty, having launched Ontario on a billion-dollar smart meter experiment, now admits the electricity pricing scheme that’s supposed to make it all work, isn’t.
Terrific! Now he tells us. Couldn’t his experts have figured this out before he started installing smart meters all over the province?
Worse, McGuinty’s government has been sending out conflicting signals on whether smart meters are even supposed to save us money.
Right now, most hydro customers who have smart meters — and we’re all getting them eventually — are seeing their bills rise. And that’s just because of the meters.
It doesn’t include all the other rate increases because of such things as McGuinty’s Green Energy Act and his 8% tax hike on electricity, as of July 1, due to the HST.
McGuinty says the problem with the smart meters is the cheaper, off-peak rate of 5.3¢ per kwh, to encourage people to do things like laundry and dish-washing between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. on weekdays, or at any time on weekends and statutory holidays, isn’t enough of an incentive to change old habits.
For that reason, he said, he might lower off-peak rates to provide a greater price differential, compared to the mid-peak rate of 8¢ per kwh and on-peak rate of 9.9¢ per kwh.
But under opposition questioning in the legislature, McGuinty wouldn’t rule out RAISING mid-peak and on-peak rates to increase the differential from off-peak.
Besides, the smart meter pricing system is so confusing it’s no wonder few consumers who have them are changing their habits.
While the times for off-peak rates are constant throughout the year, mid-peak and on-peak occur at different times during the winter and summer months, causing further confusion.
In “summer” — defined as May 1 to Oct. 31 — mid-peak rates apply from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays, while on-peak rates apply from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
But in “winter” — defined as Nov. 1 to April 30 — the charges reverse, with on-peak rates applied from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., while mid-peak occurs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Good luck keeping track of all that.
Plus, there’s so little difference between the mid-peak and on-peak rates — 8¢ versus 9.9¢ per kwh — it’s hard to see many customers changing their electricity use patterns because of them.
Finally, despite the premier’s insistence smart meters can save people money if consumers take advantage of them, an aide to former interim energy minister Gerry Phillips told the Sun earlier this year “smart meters are more about creating awareness of energy use, rather than helping people save money.”
Great. So which is it, premier?
And why do you appear to be making up your policies on electricity pricing on the fly?