The Timmins Chamber of Commerce is working with the Ontario Chamber to try and get some provincial action and have electricity prices lowered. Prices have gone up about 16% over the past couple years, and are going up another 13% over the next five years. And as Nick Stewart from the Chamber says, Ontario isn’t happy.

“Across Ontario, about 81% felt that rising electricity costs were a major problem,” explains Stewart. “And actually in Northern Ontario, that number rises to 91% which is actually the highest in the province.”

Stewart says it’s a complex issue, and it’s hard to know if any changes will be made anytime soon. Their joint report laid out some recommendations, but none are easy fixes.

The five recommendations are:

1) Increase transparency of electricity pricing and system cost drivers
2) Keep the Debt Retirement Charge on residential bills until it has been retired
3) Incentivize voluntary consolidation of local distribution companies through multiple channels
4) Move away from a central procurement model to a more competitive capacity market structure
5) Unlock the power of smart meter data by capitalizing on data analytics at a province-wide level

But, Stewart says the best way to make changes is political impact.

“Really the only way it’s going to change is if there’s sufficient political will,” continues Stewart. “Which really means that organizations like the Ontario Chamber and the Timmins Chamber and businesses in our community all really have to work together to really push the province to really reinforce the fact that these electricity prices really do have to come down.”

The Timmins Chamber has been getting a lot of feedback from those local businesses already, and as Stewart says they hear about it all the time.

“If you ask really any given business what their top three issues were, energy is constantly, constantly, within the top three. In some cases, and for many years it has been, certainly number one or number two.”

He says the high prices are going to affect our ability to stay competitive with the rest of the province, because we have a different environment.

“When you look in places like Timmins, and really all of Northern Ontario, where we have a very demanding climate, and we have a certain distance to market, that really has a very real impact on the additional energy rates,” explains Stewart. “People in our region pay arguably more to produce, and manufacture, and operate, than you know folks would, say in Southern Ontario.

It’s definitely something our businesses are acutely aware of.”

The full report is online, at the Timmins Chamber of Commerce Website