Windsor business keeps the lights off to avoid Ontario hydro bills
'We can save energy, but we cannot cut the bills' business owners say they strugle to pay hydro
Shaukat Khan waits until customers walk through the doors of his Indian restaurant in Windsor, Ont. before turning on the lights.
He readily admits his energy saving system isn't ideal, but he has to do something. He said his hydro bills are just too high.
"I understand everything goes up, but...especially hydro has no boundary, no limit, it's going up and up and up," Khan said. "If this keeps going on and on...I have to shut the business down."
Business owners throughout the region have similar concerns about hydro rates that cut deep into their operating costs. To come up with strategies to reduce expensive energy bills, representatives from a host of employment sectors gathered Thursday in downtown Windsor.
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The forum was organized by the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce, one of the most vocal groups regularly criticizing the provincial government for skyrocketing energy costs.
"It's a huge issue for us, it hurts our competitive advantage in Ontario," said Matt Marchand, chamber president and CEO. "Our costs of power are significantly higher than other jurisdictions. The goal is to develop programs that can help offset those costs so we can remain competitive here in Windsor-Essex."
Over in Windsor's Little Italy, Jay Soulliere has similar pains when he opens his hydro bill for his Motor Burger restaurant. Last month, he spent $3,200 on power.
"That's $150 just to open the door and turn on the lights every day," he told CBC News.
Both Soulliere and Khan have pinched pennies wherever they can. But after reducing staff hours and supply costs, there's simply nowhere else to cut.
"It looks really weird when a customer comes in, then we turn the lights," Khan said. But "that's the measure we're taking right now to save hydro."
Conserving energy promoted
Conserving energy is one strategy commonly promoted as a way to reduce costs to businesses. More owners should be taking advantage of conservation programs, said Sean Brady, director of business development at the Independent Electricity System Operator.
The IESO is a Crown corporation that oversees the province's electricity conservation and demand response programs.
Khan desperately wants the provincial government to find ways to help businesses with escalating costs.
"Someone, somewhere should do something about that," he said. "It's really hard to manage a business with these kind of prices. We have to do something."
As it stands now, he doesn't know where else to save money.
"When you run a business, you look everywhere, you know, you look at all aspects (to see) where you can cut it. With hydro, you cannot cut it. We can save energy, but we cannot cut the bills."