NORTH BAY AND DISTRICT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND PROVINCIAL CHAMBER ADDRESS THE IMPACT OF RISING ELECTRICITY COSTS ON BUSINESS
Soaring Electricity Prices Reach Crisis Point, According To New Research
North Bay, ON – JULY 8, 2015: A report from the North Bay & District Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) and 40 chambers of commerce and boards of trade, calls on the Government of Ontario to tackle the impact of rising electricity costs on the business community. The report, Empowering Ontario: Constraining Costs and Staying Competitive in the Electricity Market, is the most widely consulted report in the history of the province-wide network. It makes five recommendations that government and energy agencies must take to curb rising costs and keep businesses in the province. These recommendations are the product of a year-long research and consultative process with over 100 businesses, energy experts, and government agencies.
The report is accompanied by public opinion research from Leger, which cautions that soaring electricity prices have reached a crisis point for Ontario businesses and consumers. The research finds that 81 percent of Ontarians are concerned that rising electricity prices will impact the health of the Ontario economy and the same percentage fear that rising electricity prices will impact their disposable income. These numbers rise to over 90 percent in northern Ontario.
According to Leger results, Northern respondents were the most concerned with the current state of electricity prices in the province; 91% of respondents from Northern Ontario indicated that they were concerned that electricity prices will impact the health of the province. Further, 90.8% of northern respondents also indicated that they are concerned rising prices will impact their disposal income.
“One issue we hear about consistently from our members, both large and small, in the North Bay area, is the impact of soaring electricity prices on their overall business operations. Northern industries face unique challenges because of higher energy costs that come with our climate and further distance to markets,” states Jake Lacourse, President of the North Bay & District Chamber of Commerce. “This year the government announced the permanency of the Northern Industrial Electricity Program (NIER) which helps Northern Ontario’s large industrial electricity consumers reduce their electricity costs. This was a welcomed announcement and recognition of the unique needs of the north. This report points to additional recommendations that can be beneficial to businesses across the province that will not only mitigate but also aim to reduce prices overall. Systematic changes will need to take place to ensure investment stays in Ontario.”
“Summer is heating up and so is the price of electricity,” said Jake Lacourse, President of the North Bay & District Chamber of Commerce. “The price of electricity in Ontario is set to rise over the next two decades, adding to the cost of doing business in the province. If something is not done now to mitigate these increases, businesses will leave the province, jobs will be lost, and our economy will suffer.”
Among the report’s recommendations is to keep the Debt Retirement Charge (DRC) on residential bills until it has been retired, spreading the burden of past government decisions across ratepayers.
The Chamber also recommends that government improve the transparency of electricity pricing and system cost drivers. By publishing average electricity rates and disclosing the costs of important investments, government will be held accountable for future decision-making. The lack of transparency in the system has led to reduced customer engagement and confidence in the electricity market. Currently, less than half of Ontarians understand the drivers that contribute to rising electricity bills.
“The Ontario Chamber Network of 60,000 businesses consistently hears that the price of electricity is undermining their members’ capacity to grow, hire new workers, and attract investment,” said Allan O’Dette, President and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “The Government of Ontario has before them a number of decisions that must be made in order to bend the trajectory of soaring electricity costs. A first step will be to increase the transparency of decision-making in the system so that there is clear accountability and confidence in the electricity market.”
The report also examines options that government should not take, such as importing hydroelectric power from Québec to replace nuclear generation and cancelling feed-in tariff (FIT) contracts. An analysis of all the options considered can be found at occ.ca.