By: Peter Miller
900 Manitoba Hydro jobs to disappear, we learned last week. “Even with these reductions, double-digit annual rate increases would be required for at least five years in order to re-establish Manitoba Hydro on a proper financial footing,” said Hydro’s Board Chair, Sandy Riley.
Will affordable electricity vanish if such increases ensue? Not necessarily, if recommendations and options contained in a recent report from a Manitoba Hydro sponsored Bill Affordability Working Group are implemented. Even though average rates may rise, targeted assistance for lower-income customers, especially those spending more than 6% of household income on home energy, can hold down the costs and make energy affordable for the most vulnerable.
The Bill Affordability Report contains a number of consensus recommendations, such as the continuation and strengthening of Manitoba Hydro’s existing Affordable Energy Program plus several enhancements. Green Action Centre also recommends a bill discount or credit for high energy burden households (those paying more than 6 to 10% of household income on home energy) to reduce their bills to an affordable level when other measures are insufficient (found here and below). We argue that such measures flow from Manitoba Hydro’s mandate to provide efficient and economic power to meet Manitobans’ needs. There are many precedents for providing such a subsidy and the Public Utilities Board has previously indicated a willingness to consider such a recommendation.
The collaborative process that produced the Bill Affordability report arose from interventions by Green Action Centre in Hydro rate hearings. Energy affordability is linked not only to Hydro’s mandate but to our own as well. We have an inclusive vision of sustainability: All Manitobans Living Green, Living Well. Sustainability includes social justice – meeting human needs now and in the future – and efficient use of resources. Although Manitoba Hydro provides a hugely valuable resource of reliable, renewable power that energizes our lives and economy, it comes with ecological and social costs to hydro-affected communities and it is not affordable to all. Thus Green Action Centre promotes policies and practices that ensure that power is sustainably produced and used and able to meet the needs of all Manitobans, including low-income Manitobans.
Green Action Centre comments and blogs on energy affordability can be found at: