By Gerry Barker
March 24, 2017
As the resident curmudgeon of the Royal City, I have learned to accept the good with the bad.
Yes, I do have my detractors, those folks who accuse me of being cranky (at times true), angry, (ask my wife), boring. (same answer as angry), disappointed, (often), right, (most of the time but make mistakes), trapped, (gotta keep doing what I do because no one else is doing it). Most people know what IT is.
Then there are the good folks who understand what I am writing about and there are thousands of them who drop into www.guelphspeaks.ca regularly. Their support and comments really keep me motivated to expose the way our city has been mismanaged for the past ten years, and the price it has cost us.
Simmering on the back burner is an issue that most citizens were not aware of until recently, the secret record of Guelph Hydro (GH) and it impact on all citizens.
The wholly owned subsidiary of the city, GH came under the control of former Mayor Karen Farbridge. The two-term mayor had an agenda to turn Guelph into a paragon of environmental practices and standards; attain self sufficiency in electricity supply; remake the downtown; reduce the city’s carbon footprint by reducing vehicle lanes on major roads to accommodate bicycle lanes; reduce waste going to the landfill by creating a organic waste facility in a large, waste management complex on Dunlop Drive.
I am very concerned about the current administration’s efforts to sell/merge Guelph Hydro. In fact, Chief Administrative Officer, Derrick Thomson heads the Strategic Options Committee (SOC), composed of five non-elected individuals. . The committee is now in phase two of disposing of Guelph Hydro.
Don’t be misled. This is a full-court press by the Guthrie administration to liquidate the jewel of city properties. It’s going on right now as the SOC seeks bids to sell/merge Guelph Hydro to the highest bidder.
“The Committee may also engage in discussions with potential partners, develop draft agreements, and develop an implementation plan.” That’s from the “Energizing Tomorrow” website the online voice of the SOC. Who are the members?
The chairman is CAO Thomson. The co-chair is Pankaj Sardana, CEO of Guelph Hydro. The third member, Bo Bell, is a board member of Guelph Hydro Electric Systems. The “public” members are Mark Goldberg, former member of the GMHI board of directors, and Ron Puccini a retired engineer.
According to the Energizing Tomorrow website, only Mr. Goldberg and Mr. Puccini live in Guelph.
There are no elected representatives on this committee. There are two individuals, Mr. Sardana and Mr. Bell who are closely associated with Guelph Hydro.
So, we can conclude that this operation that not only includes the SOC but also Guelph Hydro Electic Systems. The Board of Directors of Guelph Hydro Electric Systems include: Ms. Armstring. Ms. Foutain, Mr. Bell, Bruce Cowan, Ted Sehl, Rick Thompson and Ms. Jasmine Urisk.
Under no circumstances am I suggesting that these folks were complicit in the GMHI financial disaster.
There is not one elected member of city council serving on these two key organizations that govern Guelph Hydro. The utility is charged with the sale or merger of the utility that serves some 53,000 customers in Guelph and Rockwood.
There does not appear to be any checks or balances or direct oversight of this potential disposal of the most valuable asset of the city’s assets. Granted, council must have the final say but its members are not directly involved in this exercise being handled by the SOC,
It also comes as a surprise that there are certain members of Guelph Hydro Electric Systems who had exposure to the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc (GMHI) financial disaster that cost the city $26.6 million. These include Jasmine Urisk, Ted Gehl, Jane Armstrong, Judy Fountain and Robert (Bob) Bell.
Mr. Goldberg of the SOC served on the GMHI board of directors. Mr. Sardana, co-chair of the SOC, was formerly CEO and CFO of GMHI.
Now most residents and businesses are aware of the huge increases in electricity distributed by Guelph Hydro, The price zoomed in four years by 42 per cent compounded.
In our house, our two-month mid-summer bill was $662 (including water). Last summer our monthly bill in July was $245 or $172 less, based on the old two-month billing cycle.
Perhaps someone can explain to me why our property taxes and user fees are approved by our elected city council. In Hydro’s case, those electricity and water charges are approved by a faceless, appointed board of directors.
It’s time to form a Hydro Commission that is elected by the citizens.
Doing some checking on what other provinces are paying for power. Better fasten your seat belts. Here are the results:
The cost of 1,000 kilowatts in Ontaro is $226.03
If you lived in Quebec the average cost of 1,000 kw is $67.89. That’s 70 per cent lower than Ontario.
Living in British Columbia the cost is $89.12. That’s 61.per cent less than Ontario.
Switching over to Manitoba, the cost of 1,000 kw is $81.09 or 64 per cent lower than Ontario.
So why the huge difference?
Ontario decided in 2006 that it was going to replace its coal-fired generating plants with energy systems using the wind and the sun to generate electricity. What has proved to be a disaster by the McGuinty and Wynne governments, has driven the cost of power to be the most expensive in Canada.
They did this by inviting private solar and wind-power producers to develop wind farms and large solar arrays across the province that incorporated renewable energy. The incentive was a guarateed kilowatt fee for 20 years of some 17 cents. The Adam Beck waterpower generation plant on the Niagara River costs about 6.5 cents per kw. Throw in the high cost of the nuclear power generating plants and Ontario, within a few years, priced itself out of the market.
The Green energy plan was so poorly managed that the Ontario Power Generating Corporation, (part of the old Ontario Hydro) was giving surplus power away to border states because of oversupply. You can’t store electricity.
Which brings me to an interesting story about a new electricity storage system developed by Tesla, the electic car and battery manufacturer. It’s called the Teslan Wall and it hangs on the wall in the garage storing power overnight.
The story said the cost per unit starts at $8,500 (US$) or the latest version is $11,500. This does not include the solar panels needed to feed the power in the household. The story goes that one client spent $31,000 adding extra battery packs. The lady is 81 and obviously optimistic that she will eventially recover her investment.
I bring this up because the SOC members told council that household electricity storage units will be commonplace in the future. Right now, the industry is a baby and it will take years for affordable power storage units to be available to most people.
Guys, I’d take that one off the table. This is today, not tomorrow.