News Local

Province reviewing hydro pricing: Rinaldi

By Valerie MacDonald, Northumberland Today

(Canadian Press file photo)

(Canadian Press file photo)

NORTHUMBERLAND -- A pilot program involving self-selected pricing packages for hydro by consumers will be on top of the average 25 per cent savings the Ontario government put into place this past summer, says Northumberland MPP Lou Rinaldi.

He was speaking about the trial hydro pilot pricing projects announced recently involving Alectra Utilities and serving Hamilton and St. Catharines, Peel, Simcoe and York Regions, London Hydro and Oshawa PUC Networks Inc.

"The intent of the program is to lower energy costs even more (than that to be achieved by refinancing hydro infrastructure debt)," he said in an interview.

At the same time, the MPP confirmed that the four-year "hold" on the cost of hydro by his government (with only the cost of living increase yearly) will remain in place.

"That stands," Rinaldi said.

The new pilot projects are testing out new ways for consumers to pay for electricity based on individual needs.

"We're turning to the need to give consumers greatly flexibility and choice in their electricity pricing plans," Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault said when he announced the locations.

The three pricing plans being tested include: one that offers a bigger rate difference between on- and-off-peak rates; peak weekday periods between 3 and 9 p.m. with off-peak during other times, and the peak rate that will be charged is given to customers the day before; and a time-of-use plant that includes an increased off-peak rate from 12 midnight to 6 a.m.

"The Ontario Energy Board has come up with these pilot projects working with the Ontario Ministry of Energy," Rinaldi said.

The elements of the projects "will be tweaked" during them to obtain the best results, he said.

Asked if his riding of Northumberland/Quinte West would be one of the upcoming test areas and if he was working towards this, Rinaldi replied: "There should be no political influence" but there "might be an opportunity down the road."

The plans being tested in the existing pilot projects could provide a chance for savings of up to $500, according to one published report.

As to the anticipated 25 per cent in reduced hydro rates consumers were promised this summer, the MPP said he had spoken to several people who made "positive" comments about their bills.

He noted that he hears more from constituents when they are unhappy.

vmacdonald@postmedia.com