The opposition parties at Queen’s Park have found a new bogeyman: smart meters, the devices that not only measure the volume of electricity used but also record the time of day. With the newly installed meters, local hydro companies can charge households a lower rate for electricity used during off-peak hours (after 9 p.m.). Spreading out demand will put less pressure on the system at peak.
That’s not how Conservative Leader Tim Hudak sees it, however. “Smart meters … squeeze more money out of the wallets of hard-working Ontario families,” he said in the legislature on Wednesday. “These are not smart meters; they’re nothing but (Premier) Dalton McGuinty’s latest tax machine.”
This is arrant nonsense. The meters provide consumers with choice: some -- those who are able to schedule their appliance use in off-peak hours -- will pay less on their hydro bills; others will pay more. Overall, the effect is revenue neutral.
Yes, hydro rates are going up for everyone, but that is not attributable to smart meters. Rather, rates are rising because the Liberal government is investing billions in new power plants and transmission lines after years of neglect under the preceding Conservative and NDP administrations. The days of cheap energy are over.
Conservatives and New Democrats are both suggesting hydro rates should be frozen. The problem with this suggestion is that the money is still needed for investments in power plants and lines. If the money doesn’t come from ratepayers, it will have to come from taxpayers (as it did in the last year of the Conservative government under Ernie Eves). The only other option is to stop investing and watch the system deteriorate to the point where we can no longer keep the lights on.
[RW: Note the comments, this is hitting everyone.]