Breaking up Ontario's Hydro Monopoly

Year Published:  1984  
Resource Type:  Book
Cx Number:  CX2913

Abstract:  The booklet details the complex relationships between Ontario Hydro (Ontario's electricity monopoly), the provincial government, and the energy needs of Ontario consumers and American utilities. The author describes how the utility has grown beyond political, financial, and environmental control to function increasingly as a law unto itself. While the Ontario Energy Board and the Ontario Ministry of Energy have the responsibility of oversight, neither body has been effective in having Hydro implement its recommendations. This has been especially true with respect to nuclear power. Although the provincial government established an energy policy in 1979 which sought to diversify Ontario's power sources and freeze the province's commitment to nuclear power until 1995, Ontario Hydro has continued to develop capital intensive nuclear projects.

One financial implication of Hydro's nuclear commitment is a large foreign debt which serves to increase the price of electricity to Ontario consumers. (In fact, Hydro owes almost as much as the federal government in foreign debt!) At the same time, the utility has had to develop a large public relations department to cope with political and environmental opposition to its nuclear policy. As a result, the tax-payers and consumers of Ontario support a public relations staff six times larger than that of INCO or Bell Canada.

The booklet concludes with a number of recommendations for the way Ontario's energy needs should be met. Some of the suggestions include: the development of energy alternatives such as cogeneration and solar technology; the purchase of electricity by Hydro from a number of smaller, privately owned generating plants; the establishment of a separate utility, Ontario Nuclear, to mange Hydro's nuclear plants and related industries; and a re-structuring of the relationships between Hydro, the Ministry of Energy, and the Ontario Energy Board.

While the material covered by the booklet is technical, it is presented in layman's terms and well-supported by charts and diagrams that are easy to read.