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Northwest wants regional power pricing

Region contends pricing should reflect its energy self-sufficiency
Port Arthur historic sign
(City of Thunder Bay photo)

The abundance of hydro-electric power generation in northwestern Ontario has community leaders calling on Queen’s Park for a regional electricity pricing system to attract industry.

The Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA) is endorsing a proposal from the energy task force of Common Voice Northwest, a public policy think-tank.

“NOMA Board and most residents of the Northwest believe strongly that they should receive the benefit of the low-cost hydro-electric generation scattered throughout the region rather than being forced to pay the higher blended price applied to the entire province,” said NOMA president Wendy Landry in a Dec. 6 statement.

Zonal, or regional pricing, regime was being studied earlier this year by the province’s Independent Electrical System Operator (IESO). It was part of a larger review of the method by which Ontario structures its wholesale electricity rates. The review finished in November.

After researching to understand the ramifications of zonal pricing, NOMA claims customers in the region could see their electricity bill reduced by 20 per cent if regional pricing was implemented.

A letter penned to the IESO by Common Voice argues that northwestern Ontario has historically been on an energy “island” even after the region was connected to the rest of the province when the East-West Tie to Wawa was constructed years ago.

During the massive 2003 blackout, northwestern Ontario still had electricity due to the numerous hydro-electric power stations throughout the region.

“We have long believed that the supply and cost of electricity is an economic development tool and have long believed that a regional price would provide a distinct advantage to the region in attracting new energy intense industry as well as reducing the overall cost to the consumer,” said the letter.

The concept of regional pricing, due to the North’s energy self-sufficiency, has been floated before to the Ontario government, which evidently went nowhere.

“We wanted to be sure that regional pricing was actually beneficial for the Northwest,” said Landry, adding “this is why we included a number of conditions in our support. We look forward to the response of the IESO and the Government of Ontario.”

Copies of the Common Voice’s reports can be obtained on their website under the NEWS tab.