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Hydro rate cut coming

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Energy minister and local MPP Greg Rickford has been taking steps to make good on Premier Doug Ford's campaign promise of reducing hydro rates by 12 percent.

Rickford's recent decision to scrap more than 750 “green” energy contracts, for a net savings of close to $800 million, is part of his plan for reaching that reduction.

Critics of the decision to cancel the contracts cite concerns around its potential to spark lawsuits and force unknown costs to the projects' proponents.

“We accommodated for some residual litigation and in the legislation itself, we built in some Crown immunity elements to it which are recognized in law,” Rickford said Friday during a conference call with the Times.

Rickford admitted that while some people wanted to see these projects move forward, the long-term savings from these cancellations will help justify his decision.

“There are some of these projects that certain constituents wanted to see move forward,” he remarked.

“But by in large, the projects cost ratepayers significant amounts of money and in many instances, these were projects, particularly around industrial wind turbines, that people didn't want,” he argued.

With this in mind, Rickford said his government decided that if the project had not reached a milestone or received a notice to proceed, it would be cancelled.

“So that was a bright-lined rule across the board that helped to deal with any fairness issues,” he noted.

Apart from the contract cancellations, Rickford said scrapping the cap-and-trade carbon tax program will help in reaching the 12 percent hydro rate reduction.

“That will reduce [rates] once that legislation is given, in effect,” he assured.

"I don't think we will be finished it before the House rises but certainly, early in the fall, that will immediately have an impact on reducing them by about five percent.

“It will also have a positive impact on the cost of gasoline, which would be immediately 4.8 or five cents [per litre lower],” he added.

Rickford said the winding down of the cap-and-trade program, as well as the cancellation of $800-million in “green” energy contracts, will have an impact on hydro rates in the near future.

“This spread out over a couple years will represent some kind of reduction, but what we're targeting is 12 percent in the next year or so,” he remarked.

While Rickford recognizes there's a long road ahead in lowering hydro bills for Ontarians, he's eager to work with his party to achieve that goal.

“There's still more work to be done and we'll begin that in earnest in the fall,” he assured.

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