The Consumers Council of Canada has released its written submission to the Ontario Distribution Sector Panel, in which it set out some high level principles for the Panel to consider in its deliberations about the local electricity distribution sector.
Of note among the points made:
- Any restructuring initiatives should be focused on what is best for Ontario electricity ratepayers and should create efficiencies and cost reductions in the sector without compromising the safety and reliability of electricity supply. Efficiencies and cost reductions should ultimately be reflected in the costs to consumers.
- How the rights of consumers can be sufficiently protected should be considered in the context of any restructuring.
- Regulatory oversight of the Ontario LDCs should not be compromised in any way during and after any restructuring initiatives. The LDCs are regulated monopolies that require oversight to ensure that the interests of consumers are sufficiently protected. Any major changes to the sector must be coordinated with the OEB to ensure effective regulatory oversight.
The Ontario government appointed Murray Elston to lead the three-member Panel, which will conduct a comprehensive analysis of Ontario's current electricity distribution sector, and will report back to the Minister of Energy before March 2013.
The Council made oral representations on behalf of Ontario consumers to the Panel on July 17, 2012, and prior to that made written submission to the panel. Read the written submission. [PDF]
The Council stressed the following Consumer Rights for Residential Energy Consumers:
Basic Needs: The right to access reliable sources of energy at affordable prices to meet household needs (e.g. heat, light, cooking, etc.). Affordable prices are prices that reflect the true cost of production and delivery, are borne equitably by all segments of society and do not require consumers to neglect other basic needs such as shelter and food.
Safety: The right to a safe supply of electricity, and other sources of fuel (gas, propane, oil etc). Information: The right to timely, accurate and complete information about sources of energy, pricing and wise use of energy so residential consumers can make informed choices about their energy use.
Choice: The right to choose energy products and services at competitive prices, and, when this is not possible because of a monopoly situation, the right to have independent and effective regulatory oversight ensure that pricing of energy is fair and reasonable.
Representation: The right to have the residential consumer interest effectively represented in the regulatory and government processes.
Redress: The right to be compensated for and protected from unsatisfactory service or undue pressure to purchase energy services.
Consumer Education: The right to acquire knowledge and skills about energy products and services their wise use.
Healthy Environment: The right to energy at a reasonable cost from sources that minimize damage to the environment.
Privacy: The right to privacy of personal information that is collected from energy providers to provide energy services.