(Oct. 18, 2010) Parker Gallant’s open letter to the Honourable Brad Duguid, Minister of Energy & Infrastructure and Mr. Haines, CEO, Toronto Hydro.
Mr. Duguid/Mr Haines: (NB: Mr. McLorg, Manager, Regulatory Affairs, Toronto Hydro-please pass this e-mail on to Mr. Haines)
Last night, for probably the 10th time in the last couple of months, our neighbourhood experienced a power outage. The outage started at approximately 10.30 PM in the Guildwood area of Scarborough. I tried to contact the “Power Outage” 24 hour line to report the outage only to listen to a sweet voice telling me the office hours and going through a litany of menu options. I hit the one asking if I wished to report an outage. Reaching that line I heard another voice mail message (after waiting another 10 minutes or so) telling me that outages were being experienced in the Western end of Toronto in two locations—nothing about our area.
The message told me to hold the line and an operator would be with me shortly. I waited for approximately 20 minutes and suddenly we had a power surge which disconnected me from the line. I was also concerned that the surge would have blown my wife’s computer monitor as it did in August when we had a similar outage (at that time I seriously thought about bringing the matter to Mr. Haines attention but let it go). I recalled the number, waited for another 15 minutes only to finally get connected with a voice mail, which asked me to leave a message—which I did. In all, it took me approximately 40 minutes to report the outage on a 24-hour line.
The power was restored just before midnight! Fortunately my wife’s monitor was undamaged this time as we had upgraded her surge protector.
Coincidently I recently received a letter from Mr. Haines dated October 1, 2010 that advised me we were going to be converted to TOU rates shortly. That presumably is meant to mean we should do our laundry after 9 PM if we wish to save money. If we continue to have these power outages how are we expected to be able to do that?
My conclusion is that because Toronto Hydro and other LDC’s have been paying excessive dividends ($240 Million [60% of profits] over the last 6 years in the case of Toronto Hydro) to their respective owners (the municipalities) there is no money available to upgrade infrastructure. Is that the case? Certainly your applications (EB-2010-0142 & EB-2010-0193) for rate increases indicate that as one of the reasons why you need more money from the ratepayers.
In fact, Toronto Hydro doesn’t even have a reliable phone system where outages can be reported as noted above. Maybe you should upgrade that first!
I understood one of the benefits that Toronto Hydro and all of the other LDCs would get from smart meter installations was the ability to immediately pinpoint outages and prevent power surges. If that is the case why is this feature not working and why are we being obligated to accept TOU pricing and to pay for these smart meters under the regulatory line of our bills? Interestingly, when I spoke with my neighbour down the street, he indicated that he had also called the “outage” line and when he was addressing the “on line” questions about where the outage was on our street he gave a number that was not his and he was corrected and told the street number he was actually calling from. Did the smart meter detect that, and if so WAS THE PURPOSE OF THE SMART METERS TO TAKE AWAY OUR PRIVACY?
The employees of Toronto Hydro are well paid to provide the residents of Toronto with reliable power on a continuous basis. I have no problems with my telephone provider, with my TV service provider or my gas provider, so why can’t Toronto Hydro be held to the same standards. When you raise your rates, I cannot go elsewhere, as is my choice with the foregoing private service providers, so if you run a monopoly—run it properly!
Mr Andersen (OPA) and Mr Haines (Toronto Hydro) and Ms Formusa (Hydro One) were recently at Ryerson University (a publicly funded educational institute) handing out $7 million dollars to create a research chair for energy. They were handing out ratepayer and taxpayer money to an institution that already receives millions of dollars from the taxpayers of this province instead of spending money to UPGRADE THE SYSTEM to avoid these continuing blackouts. It is sure easy to hand out other people’s money and receive applause from an appreciative group. You also do the same with the private sector. You are paying IKEA 71.3 cents per kWh for their solar roof-mounted panels and then charging them approximately 7 cents per kWh (wholesale prices) for the power they purchase from you. The difference of 64 cents per kWh is coming out of ratepayers like us! What economic model does the OPA and Toronto Hydro use?
Mr. Duguid, you continually speak about all the wonderful things your party and the MEI have done to make our electricity system, clean and reliable but from my seat in my house you are being less than honest. Rhetoric only goes so far in convincing the taxpayers of this province that everything is wonderful. The system is in worse shape now than it was when your party came to power and next year it will be costing ratepayers twice as much.
Parker Gallant is a board member of the Energy Probe Research Foundation.