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The high cost of water and heat in the County

The Times did some research into the affordability of County waterworks, which showed that, at the end of 2015, 12 per cent of the County’s residential customers were overdue on their bills.

This comes as no surprise. An analysis that I did a few years ago showed that the County’s water and wastewater charges combined were in the top 2 per cent in Canada. I doubt that our situation has improved since then.

Currently, for average consumption, Picton and Wellington residents are charged $1,372 per year. Of this amount, $804 ($67 per month) is fixed, and can’t be reduced by conservation.

For the same consumption in other municipalities, Bancroft charges $872 (36 per cent less), Quinte West $823 (40 per cent less), Brighton, $587 (57 per cent less). The County has higher fixed charges than these municipalities and, except for Bancroft, much higher consumption charges.

And then there’s the affordability of electricity, as delivered to the County by Hydro One. At the end of 2015, fully 20 per cent of Hydro One’s residential customers were in arrears by more than 46 days.

The percentage arrears was more than double that of the other distribution companies in Ontario, reflecting the very high delivery costs charged by Hydro One.

It’s quite possible that many of the Picton and Wellington residents in arrears to the County are in arrears to Hydro One as well. Many will be folks on fixed incomes. When the financial burden becomes too great, the only solution is to sell. That’s a shame.

Gary Mooney
Hillier Ward

Filed Under: Letters and OpinionNews from Everywhere Else

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  1. Gary Mooney says:

    Tired, Hydro One has elected to charge consumers based on population density, so rural customers pay more than urban.

    For 750 kWH per month, after the PST rebate starting Jan 1, 2017, most of PEC will pay $192 per month, with Picton doing better at at $161 because it’s more urban. Note that the “most of PEC” charge is net of a subsidy of $33 credited to “rural and remote” customers.

    Toronto will be at $150, Ottawa at $134, neither being serviced by Hydro One. Compare with Quebec, where urban subsidizes rural, and everyone pays $63 for 750 kWH.

    When Hydro One is majority-owned (60%) by institutional investors, it will be highly unlikely that the shareholders will allow additional rural subsidies, and they may want to claw back the $33 monthly mentioned above.

  2. Tired says:

    I may be wrong but are delivery costs in Toronto Belleville Kingston etc lower that rural areas. If so do like the auto industry does. If you live next to a car makers plant in Ontario or Victoria BC the delivery cost is the same for a new vehicle. Have the big centers pay a little extra in delivery costs so the rural areas pay a lot less. I have a building that has power usage each month of less than 1 dollar but the hydro bill is over 40 dollars by the time delivery etc is added.

  3. Fred Flinstone says:

    Apollo to PEC Council! We have a water problem.

  4. Gary says:

    How’s our Water Committee doing on getting the costs reduced. We have a Town where young folks have to choose between food or paying the water bill. The water crisis didn’t even hit Council’s Strategic Plan! How can this not be a top priority? What’s in that water on the horseshoe table?

  5. Chuck says:

    Oh I thought you proposed us paying more to keep half full schools open that do not have Provincial funding. I do like a positive approach. PECI being used to capacity is a positive approach that has a lot of merit. It takes some open minds that are acceptable to change. So many resist any change even in the face of fiscal reality.

  6. Dennis Fox says:

    Chuck – I didn’t advocate for all schools to remain open. I did point out that in the time of adversity there could be positive outcomes with a bit of thinking taking place. Guess you don’t like the positive approach.

  7. Fred says:

    I believe the County should be seeking some form of financial relief from upper levels of Government for the water crisis.

  8. Chuck says:

    And you propose to add more tax dollar increases to keep every neighbourhood school open. Where do the fixed income folks find that money?

  9. Dennis Fox says:

    The electrical cost in this province is ridiculous and entirely the fault of an inept provincial government. However, the same can be said for PEC water costs as well. The delay and the associated increase in building cost for the treatment plant lies entirely with our local government. It is for this reason, I have lost all trust and faith in our council. Despite the financial realities that Gary so clearly explains in his letter, our councils continually raise taxes EVERY year! This current council has raised taxes by 4.5% for the last two years! That is a large increase by any municipal standard – so where do they expect the people of fixed incomes to get those additional dollars? They can’t! This is a real life situation and yet it goes ignored. When a person has to leave there home because they can’t afford the imposed increased cost by government – then it is more than being just a shame – it is wrong and those responsible must be removed from their job. They have failed in what they were elected to do – represent ALL people, not just those who can afford to live here.

  10. Gary Mooney says:

    Unfortunately, we’re stuck with these high prices long-term. In the case of waterworks, it’s because of long-term debt to pay for the wastewater plant and future upgrades to the water treatment systems and sewers.

    Re electricity, it’s a combination of upgrades to the delivery infrastructure and long-term power purchase agreements (e.g. 20 years for wind and solar), not to mention payments for power not generated (curtailment) and 15% of power exported at fire sale prices.

    Next will be increases in the cost of natural gas and heating oil due to Ontario’s cap and trade levies.

    Off-grid living is starting to look like a pretty good alternative.

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