Hydro Bills Will Soar

The road taken by Hydro on the direction of its inept NDP master will lead to electricity bills that
will strangle the province’s economy and test the ability of lower-income consumers to keep
their homes. For the estimated 140,000 households that heat electrically, the damage will be
particularly grievous – their Hydro bills will soar.

A decade ago, the cost of heating electrically or by natural gas was pretty much the same. Now
the cost of heating with natural gas is about half that of electricity. For our 1360-square-foot
bungalow, and despite our being away most of the winter, the 2014-2015 space and water
heater gas bill was $732. Our electricity bill (including air conditioning) was $1090. If we heated electrically and stayed here all winter, our overall bill could have been about $900 higher.

Electricity rates are already 41% higher than in 2003-04. Back then, our annual electricity bill was not today’s $1090 but $750. Based on Hydro’s latest rate forecast by 2032 our electricity bill will be about $2150, three times its 2003-04 cost. Much worse for those heating electrically and staying here in the winter their annual Hydro bill could then exceed $5000. For larger poorly insulated houses, Hydro bills could be much higher. A good share of Hydro revenue goes to a spendthrift government.

While Hydro’s projections are not attractive, the real outcome will likely be worse. Hydro’s forecasting record is abysmal. The monopoly utility habitually advances wrong forecasts of construction costs, export volumes and prices, domestic consumption and customer rates.

Instead of relying on Hydro’s forecasts, best to expect rates and bills will be much worse than Hydro now predicts.

Mostly borrowed funds fuel an overall plan having a price tag of close to $40 billion. That enormous sum includes billions for replacement and upgrading pre-expansion infrastructure as well constructing uneconomic new plant. While the plan has come under withering and relentless attack, including by outside experts, the NDP refuses to either commission a truly independent review or simply give it up.

Why? Because, if they halted the madness they would be admitting that they have already wasted billions. Such an admission would likely relegate the party to oblivion in the upcoming provincial election, a responsible government would move to protect taxpayers and Hydro customers. Such a government would worry more about the financial well-being of present and future Manitobans than their political position and legacy. A truly caring government wouldn’t spend $40 billion chasing an illusion. It would focus on fixing existing infrastructure, understanding a rapidly changing electricity market, holding down costs and diversifying supply.

A gas-fired plant in Brandon needs clear-minded consideration. Greater reliance on energy efficiency and demand suppression, while opening up Hydro’s supply monopoly would allow for reduced rate increases. With Hydro’s expansion plan being funded by business and residential consumers, the future for Manitoba is much bleaker than it should be.

There still is time to call a halt to a nonsensical and out-dated pipe dream.

With 30% of Manitoban households considered low-income and 35% of properties heated electrically, the twin objectives of the pre-NDP Hydro–reliable supply at lowest cost- should be restored. Otherwise your Hydro bills will soar.