Missed hydro deadlines spark fears of 'chaos'

John Spears
Toronto Star
December 1, 2000

Utilities, major electricity users fail to file plans

More questions arose yesterday about how people and businesses in Ontario will buy electricity when some major players showed they’re not ready for the new power market in the province.

Some utilities and big power users failed to file plans by provincial deadlines to prepare for the new, competitive electricity market.

Kevin Dove, a spokesperson for the Independent Market Operator, set up to run the new market that was originally due to open a month ago, said it likely won’t be ready until May 1.

“It’s more chaos, more confusion, more uncertainty for consumers,” said Tom Adams of Energy Probe. “It’s not a good sign, but it’s not a new sign.”

The lights won’t go out despite the market’s teething problems.

But it leaves in limbo what your electricity bill will look like, and how much you’ll pay.

Long-term, fixed-rate electricity contracts that some consumers have signed recently can’t take effect until the market opens.

Under the new system, private generating companies are free to sell electricity in Ontario. Private retailers can also act as middlemen between customers and generating companies.

But some municipal utilities missed a deadline yesterday for filing rate applications with the Ontario Energy Board.

As of 2:30 p.m. yesterday, just 40 municipal utilities out of nearly 100 across the province had filed rate applications as required by the Ontario Energy Board.

About 15 others had informed the board that they’ll miss the deadline, said the board’s assistant secretary, Peter O’Dell, and “I imagine more will be flowing in.”

Energy board officials weren’t available at the end of the day to say exactly how many utilities made the filing deadline.

It will take months for the board to review all the applications and approve the rates, which must be set before the competitive market can open. The longer it takes to receive the rate applications, the longer the market’s opening could be delayed.

The municipal utilities own the wires that deliver power directly to customers. They’ll charge a rate, regulated by the board, to deliver the power.

Customers will be charged a separate amount on the same bill for the actual energy they use – which can be bought from a retailer or through the local utility.

Most of the large utilities have filed applications for somewhat higher rates. Toronto Hydro, for example, is asking for increases totalling 6 per cent over the next three years.

In addition to filing their rate applications, local utilities and big power users must meet a second deadline today.

That’s when they are supposed to have plans filed with the Independent Market Operator, which will co-ordinate buying and selling of power across the province.

The plans are needed so the Independent Market Operator can start testing its complex systems to track and co- ordinate purchases, sales and flows of energy across the power grid.

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