TORONTO - Ontario electricity consumers can expect their bills to jump more than 30 per cent in the next three years under the new long-term energy plan unveiled Monday by Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli.
However, Chiarelli said the average homeowner will pay about $100 a year less than they would have if the Liberals hadn't killed plans to build two new nuclear reactors, renegotiated its green energy deal with Samsung and started paying wind farms not to produce electricity when it's not needed.
"Significant ratepayer savings will be realized as a result of reduced feed-in-tariff prices, the ability to dispatch wind generation, the amended (Samsung) agreement and the decision to defer new nuclear," he said in the report.
The $1.1 billion the Liberals spent to cancel two gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga prior to the 2011 election will be more than offset by nearly $16 billion in reduced spending in the new plan from the 2010 version, added Chiarelli.
The Liberals will proceed with the refurbishment of nuclear reactors at the Darlington and Bruce generating stations starting in 2016, and plan to shutdown the Pickering nuclear station by 2020 at the latest.
However, the new plan also calls for the government to go slower as it phases in more renewable sources of electricity, and expect to have half of generation capacity from green sources such as wind and solar by 2025.
A key part of the revised plan includes what the government calls "on-bill financing for energy efficiency retrofits" starting in 2015, which would provide upfront loans for home renovations which would be paid back through electricity bills.
The Liberal strategy won't bring hydro rates under control or bring back lost jobs, but will drive more companies out of Ontario, warned PC Leader Tim Hudak, who also lashed out at the New Democrats for supporting the minority government.
"This is a government that's actually doubled hydro rates and chased 300,000 manufacturing jobs out of the province," said Hudak.
"Half those job losses and half those rate increases should be on the back of (NDP Leader) Andrea Horwath and the NDP because they keep propping up the Liberals."
Horwath said Ontario families and businesses pay the highest electricity rates in Canada because of the Liberal government's policies.
"This doesn't look like a plan for affordable power," Horwath told the legislature. "It looks like a desperate government trying to hold on to political power."
Horwath attacked the Liberals for spending $180 million on nuclear plants that were cancelled, nearly $1 billion on nuclear refurbishment plans "without a final price tag," and $1.1 billion spent to cancel two gas plants "to save a couple of Liberal seats."
"How can the premier expect the people to believe that this government has a plan to make electricity affordable," asked Horwath.
Nuclear will remain the largest component of Ontario's electricity mix, but is expected to fall to about 47 per cent from around 55 per cent in the new plan, which reflects the fact that the province will stop burning coal to generate power by the end of this year.
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