TORONTO — Ontario has pulled the plug on time-of-use hydro rates for an extended period while upping the effective flat rate by 2.7 cents per kilowatt hour.
The Ford government temporarily suspended the time-of-use scheme in April, dropping electricity bills to the off-peak rate of 10.1 cents per kWh amid the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of today, the rate charged rises to 12.8 cents per kWh. This new “COVID-19 Recovery Rate” offers “stability and greater customer choice, while helping those struggling to pay their energy bills as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak,” according to the government, which also says time-of-use pricing won’t return until Nov. 1st — and only as an option.
Premier Doug Ford, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott, Energy, Northern Development and Mines Minister Greg Rickford, and Associate Minister of Energy Bill Walker announced the change and related hydro program initiatives during the premier’s daily pandemic update.
The programs include:
• $9 million for the COVID-19 Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) to support consumers struggling to pay their energy bills during the pandemic. CEAP will provide one-time payments to consumers to help pay down any electricity bill debt incurred over the COVID‑19 period. Applications will be available through local utilities in the upcoming months;
• $8 million for the COVID-19 Energy Assistance Program for Small Business (CEAP-SB) to provide support to businesses struggling with bill payments as a result of the outbreak; and
• An extension of the Ontario Energy Board’s winter disconnection ban until July 31, 2020 to ensure no one is disconnected from their natural gas or electricity service during these uncertain times.
“While we make progress to contain this deadly virus, we know people will need to stay home when possible and businesses will need ongoing support as we gradually and safely reopen the economy,” said Premier Ford. “Providing additional rate relief, flexibility and customer choice will help ensure everyone can recover from this extraordinary crisis and get back to a life that is as normal as possible.”
Starting Nov. 1, customers will be able to choose a hydro plan that best suits their household and lifestyle with the option of either time-of-use electricity rates or tiered pricing, which will provide a set rate for electricity up to a certain level of consumption.
“We recognize that businesses and families are living with a great deal of uncertainty, and they need to know what they can expect when they open their electricity bills every month,” said Minister Rickford. “The new COVID-19 Recovery Rate will provide stability for Ontario electricity consumers, while we work to re-open our province and restart our economy.”
The premier’s June 1 media conference announcing the hydro changes, below.
The government also points out that it continues to subsidize 31.8 percent of electricity bills through the Ontario Electricity Rebate. Approximately $5.6 billion will come out of the provincial treasury in 2020-21 to pay for existing electricity cost relief programs.
“With the financial hardships faced by so many in our province as a result of COVID-19, those struggling to pay their electricity bills need support,” said Minister Walker. “This program, in partnership with the Ontario Energy Board and local distribution companies, will support electricity consumers by keeping rates stable and affordable.”
The province switched to time-of-use rates about a decade ago, compelling the installation of controversial smart meters to accommodate the change at the time.