Electricity will be getting more expensive – but not by as much as previously thought.
That's the message from the Ontario government ahead of an update to the province's long-term energy plan due Monday.
The LTEP will be something of a holding pattern, government and industry sources indicated. There will be little sense of urgency in developing new sources of electricity beyond previously announced projects.
Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli suggested that keeping the province's build-out of power generation to a minimum will make energy rates rise less dramatically than they otherwise would have.
"We expect that rates will continue to increase," he told reporters at Queen's Park. "But we have taken very significant steps to mitigate those rate increases. That includes taking $20-billion out of the rate base moving forward, which will have a significant reduction in the level of increases that we're going to see."
One source said estimated rates in the future are expected to be lower than in earlier projections.
The government has already cancelled the construction of new nuclear plants and renegotiated a major green power deal with a consortium led by South Korea-based Samsung Group. These moves, along with more efficient use of power, are expected to save ratepayers billions over the long-term, Mr. Chiarelli said.
This may matter little to consumers, who will still see more expensive power. And they will likely do little to quiet the opposition Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats, who argue high energy rates are dissuading manufacturers from doing business in the province.
The plan also comes amid the continuing fallout over the Liberals' decision to cancel two gas-fired power plants in what was seen as a move to save the party's seats in the last election.
"The $1-billion added to bills when Liberals cancelled gas plants; the $180 million blown when Liberals committed to a nuclear expansion plan that never went ahead; the millions and millions and millions spent daily on private power … Are these things all a fact of life?" NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said in the legislature this week.
Mr. Chiarelli has been signalling in recent weeks that he will not announce any dramatic increases in generating capacity. The province currently has more energy than it can use after a decade of building new plants.
"We now put ourselves in the position to be able to reduce our investments in the future," Mr. Chiarelli said. "Now that we're caught up, we're in a surplus situation, we're taking strong, strong measures to mitigate rate increases in the future."
The government has announced plans to refurbish reactors at Darlington Nuclear Generating Station and Bruce Power. Other previously approved energy projects – including new gas plants near Napanee and Sarnia – are also scheduled to be up and running in the coming years, adding more power to the system.
The proportion of nuclear power in the province's supply mix, meanwhile, is expected to fall below 50 per cent.
Earlier this week, the government also rolled out a new web site aimed at educating consumers about electricity.
The site features interactive games and videos that explain how the electrical system works, as well as a program that shows consumers which times of day they can get the cheapest juice.
Mr. Chiarelli will present the long-term energy plan Monday afternoon in the legislature.