Do you remember where you were at 4:11pm on Thursday, August 14th, 2003?
That’s the day the lights suddenly went out when a massive blackout struck Ontario. I recall cobbling together a dinner on the barbecue for our family, fretting about all the food that would spoil in the freezer, and worrying more about the bigger picture.
Why was the power off and when would it be restored?
I also remember that blackouts and brownouts were common. And, so too were smog days when people with respiratory problems, such as my eldest son who suffered with asthma, were warned to stay indoors. Ontario’s dirty coal burning power plants, which generated a quarter of our electricity at the time, were largely the cause of these “Bad Air” days.
When the Ontario Liberals came to power in the fall of 2003, they made a bold decision to rebuild the province’s energy grid. For decades, governments of all stripes had neglected upgrades to the system.
Something had to be done.
The government moved forward with a plan to shut down the province’s 19 coal plants, invest in transmission and distribution assets, and build clean, renewable electricity generation.
The price tag to modernize our electricity system was $50 billion, and the burden of paying for the upgrades was placed on ratepayers. While some noticed incremental increases over the past decade, others – such are rural users – saw much more substantial rises on their monthly bills.
Those especially hard hit have told stories of having to choose between keeping the lights on or buying groceries. And, that’s not acceptable.
This is why Premier Kathleen Wynne is taking action to provide significant hydro rate relief for everyone.
Starting this summer, everyone will see an average 25% reduction to their electricity bill, with increases limited to inflation for at least 4 years.
This relief comes by extending the contracts the province has with renewable energy generators from 20 years to 30 years. It’s akin to lengthening a mortgage repayment period.
Some will say the rate cuts are tied to politics. Next year’s provincial election. Perhaps, sagging poll numbers.
The reason electricity rates are being reduced is because it’s the right thing to do. The government is taking responsibility and taking action with a fair and inclusive plan. And fairness means ensuring that electricity investments don't disproportionately affect ratepayers.
Other jurisdictions, which are still burning coal to generate electricity, are looking to Ontario as a progressive example of what’s possible in clean energy. We’ve already made that investment, while neighbouring provinces and states have a long way to go.
And, since we shut down the last of the province’s coal burning plants in 2014, the number of smog days experienced in Ontario has been – zero.
Creating clean, reliable electricity for the future has come with costs. But, future generations will certainly benefit from this investment.
This website is provided for your convenience. If you'd prefer to call or email, my staff and I would be happy to hear from you.
Students Will Now See OSAP Amount and Net Tuition Fees OnlineNews, Local News
College Students to Receive Additional Support to Finish StudiesNews, Local News
Legislation would require colleges to resume operations