Heat wave sends hydro bills soaring

Zev Singer
The Ottawa Citizen
July 18, 2005

With this summer’s persistent high temperatures, the city is sucking up close to 20 per cent more energy than it did last year. Combine that with increases in both the price of electricity and the delivery rate and it will likely add up to financial pain for anyone with an air conditioner.

In April of this year, the Ontario Energy Board raised the price of electricity enough to boost the average Ottawa resident’s energy bill by an estimated seven per cent. Also in April, the same bills rose by 3.6 per cent because of the increase in Hydro Ottawa’s delivery rate.

The biggest factor, though, will be the amount of power going into keeping Ottawans refrigerated.

According to Casey Malone, a Hydro Ottawa manager, the utility’s customers – close to 90 per cent of Ottawa residents, the rest being served by Hydro One – used 700 million kilowatt hours of electricity last month. That’s up 18 per cent over the 593 million kilowatt hours used in June of last year.

“Considering the length of this high-heat period we’ve had, it could very easily double an average residential bill,” Mr. Malone said, who added that for some customers, opening the bill could be quite a surprise.

Mr. Malone said Hydro Ottawa is advising customers to try to cut down on their consumption.

Tom Adams of industry watchdog Energy Probe, said that while it’s simple enough logic that more cranked-up air conditioning units will mean higher bills, some consumers are still bound to be taken by surprise.

Yet, Mr. Adams said Ontarians are still consuming much more energy than they would be if the provincial government weren’t keeping the price of electricity fixed artificially low.

He said the gap between the real cost of electricity and what people are paying has been giving people insufficient motivation to cut their consumption.

“We’re setting these records for electrical demands because there’s this gap,” he said, calling the province a “fool’s paradise.”

Mr. Adams said that for some people, depending on circumstances, it could be very hard to do without air conditioning, but he encouraged others to “find ways to make yourself comfortable with minimal air conditioning.”


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