Shockingly high hydro bills at Bluewater Health are caused primarily by dramatic increases in the cost of electricity, says the Ontario director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF).
Christine Van Geyn lays the blame squarely on the provincial government, its green energy policies and Cap and Trade program.
Bluewater Health saw its electricity bill rise by $851,164 between 2012 and 2016, a whopping 40% increase. Over that period power costs ballooned to $2.95 million from $2.11 million, according to information the federation obtained through a Freedom of Information request.
But at least 20% of that was due to more hydro consumption at the hospital, says Samer Abou-Sweid, vice president of operations at Bluewater Health.
Despite an aggressive plan to use less electricity, consumption continues to rise because more patients are using hospital facilities in Sarnia, he said.
“We are seeing more patients through the ED (Emergency Department) and we are doing more procedures,” he said. “As a hospital we are busier and that comes with additional costs.”
An aging population and a surge in mental health cases have added to the patient volume. And as Ontario enters the busiest months of influenza season, energy consumption will jump again.
The CTF obtained the electricity bills of 144 Ontario hospitals. Of the 20 analyzed, most had a 20% to 50% increase over five years.
Abou-Sweid said despite the local hospital’s best efforts power bills will likely continue to increase.
“We have a multi-year strategy to reduce consumption. We’ve replaced boilers and done audits to ensure proper insulation,” he said.
The hospital uses light sensors and has increased use of of LED lighting. An automated HVAC system uses outdoor air when possible for cooling, and innovative air handlers have recovery wheels that reduce how much air needs to be heated or cooled.
Even transformers in the hospital have been converted to high efficiency.
But much of the technology relies on electricity around-the-clock, and that can’t be reduced.
“We’re very busy at night,” Abou-Sweid said.
“I believe hospitals in Ontario are facing unprecedented pressure because of mental health and the aging population.
“At the same time, we’re always trying to come up with innovative ways to do what we can more efficiently,” he said.
“The CTF is absolutely on the side of the hospitals,’ said Van Geyn. “Their budgets are limited and their bills go up even if their electricity usage goes down.”
Meanwhile, residential hydro bills in Ontario have more than doubled in the last decade.