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Fraser Institute: High Electricity Rates Handicap Canadian Businesses While American Businesses Enjoy Much Lower Rates

CALGARY, ALBERTA -- (Marketwired) -- 05/05/14 -- Canadian businesses pay more for electrical energy, on average, than American businesses, according to a new study released today by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank.

The study, Paying More for Power, examines residential, commercial and industrial electricity rates in 119 Canadian and American cities.

The study finds that electricity rates for Canadian commercial customers are 19 per cent higher than those in the U.S. (excluding Hawaii), with small industrial customers facing rates 30 per cent higher.

And Canadian residential customers pay 1.5 per cent more on average than American residential customers.

"These higher electricity rates put Canadian businesses at a competitive disadvantage and deter future economic development," said Kenneth Green, study co-author and Fraser Institute senior director of energy and natural resources.

"This is particularly troubling for a province such as Ontario, which has a significant manufacturing sector, and Alberta, which relies on resource extraction."

The price disparity is due in part to the shift in many provinces away from coal-fired electric generation capacity and a failure to fully embrace natural gas-fired capacity, especially in gas-rich provinces such as Alberta and Saskatchewan. Not surprisingly, the Canadian cities with the lowest electricity rates are found in provinces with extensive hydro-electric generation capacity: Quebec, Manitoba and British Columbia.

The study calculates an average rate for commercial customers of 11.55 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). Of the 12 Canadian cities included in the study, only four-Winnipeg, Montreal, Vancouver and Regina-offer rates below the average. The average rate for small industrial customers is 8.92 cents per kWh. Again, only Winnipeg, Vancouver and Montreal offer rates below the average.

In comparison, Edmonton, Calgary, Charlottetown and Halifax have the highest rates for both commercial and small industrial customers, ranging between 13.25 cents and 16.93 cents per kWh for commercial customers, and 12.44 cents and 17.92 cents per kWh for small industrial customers.

"The shift away from inexpensive coal-fired generation capacity in Ontario, and the failure of resource-rich provinces Alberta and Saskatchewan and gas-poor provinces such as Ontario to fully embrace natural gas-fired capacity, is penalizing commercial and industrial electricity consumers," Green said.

To further reduce electricity rates and cost burdens on Canadians, the study suggests further development of hydro-electric facilities, investment in natural gas generation capacity, clarifying regulations around air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and re-examining subsidies to renewable energy projects to ensure that future generations of consumers are not unduly penalized.

"Although the environment should be a key consideration in investment decisions about generation capacity, policy makers should not place unnecessary burdens on taxpayers and electricity consumers by propping up expensive electric-generation alternatives," Green said.

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The Fraser Institute is an independent Canadian public policy research and educational organization with offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal and ties to a global network of 86 think-tanks. Its mission is to measure, study, and communicate the impact of competitive markets and government intervention on the welfare of individuals. To protect the Institute's independence, it does not accept grants from governments or contracts for research. Visit www.fraserinstitute.org.

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