Your electricity bill reads lower than expected and you do not need new glasses! Words by Phill Feltham.

The Liberal government is cutting power bills to Ontario residents by 10 percent. Rapid price hikes and the high cost of energy were cutting into the popularity of the McGuinty government and exposing them to hot criticisms from the opposition. The government stated that this discount would result in average annual savings of $150 per household and cost the Provincial treasury about $1 billion a year.

Further to the price cut taking place in January the government already offers a variety of tax reliefs aimed at keeping electricity bills ‘affordable’ particularly for seniors. Here’s a brief summary of these comprehensive tax breaks.

The Ontario Energy and Property Tax Credit for seniors. “Ontarians who own or rent a home could receive up to $900 in tax relief [seniors are able to claim up to $1,025],” says Energy Minister Brad Duguid. According to a press release from the Energy Minister’s office, Ontarians could apply and receive the proposed tax credit after filing their 2010 tax returns. The tax credit would be paid quarterly, like the new Ontario Sales Tax Credit.

Ontario Sales Tax Credit: A new and permanent sales tax credit on top of the existing GST credit that provides up to $260 for eligible seniors and families. Ontario Senior Homeowners’ Property Tax Grant, announced in the 2008 budget, was doubled to $500 in 2010.

Ontario Sales Tax Transition Benefit: Provides $1000 for senior couples with net incomes of $160,000 or less. Speaking of affordability, the government has spent one billion dollars to install smart meters into people’s homes to push customers into using smarter time-of-use pricing. Enersource’s Karen Ras says a good way for consumers to save money is to first understand what’s being charged on your bill. Just look “On the back of your bill and you’ll see a breakdown of how you’re being charged for your power.”

Here’s an elaboration of what’s on your electricity bill from Enersource.

Electricity Commodity Charges: Rates are set by the Ontario Energy Board for the cost of electricity supplied during the billing period, which is the adjusted kWh used. (KiloWatthours)

Delivery Charges: The cost of bringing electricity from generating stations to your home or business. Charges included are transmission, distribution and the fixed customer charge.

Regulatory Charges: This cost covers the wholesale operations charge (0.65 per kwh) and an extra charge of 0.03725 to recover costs from funding renewable energy and conservation programs.

Adjustment Factor: Some electricity is lost when delivered over a power line. The adjustment factor pays for those losses.

Debt Retirement Charge: The monthly cost of $5.60 on average for homeowners is budgeted to retire the $20- billion stranded debt of the former Ontario Hydro.

Looking ahead here are 5 easy ways to further save money from your energy bill this winter. As with many things the solution begins with you, the best way to lower an electricity bill is to reduce consumption. Here are 5 tips from Enersource:

  1. Change furnace filters monthly. Clean furnace filters can save up to 5% of your energy usage, as a dirty filter reduces air flow causing your furnace to work harder
  2. Get rid of “energy hog” appliances. An older appliance from the ‘70s can cost about four times as much to run as a newer model. Ask your retailer for the best energy-efficient options.
  3. Use energy-saving small appliances, and use the big ones less often. Electric kettles, toaster ovens or microwaves use much less electricity than stoves and ovens.
  4. Turn off or turn down the lights. Compact fluorescent light bulbs use 75% less electricity and last much longer than their incandescent counterparts. Also, dimmer switches help conserve light and electricity. And a cleaner bulb is a brighter bulb.
  5. Purchase a power bar. Using a power bar is an easy way to ensure that all your electronic devices are switched off.

We try to be positive but coming soon, a hard look at “Green Energy – DREAM OR DI$A$TER?”