Up until May 1st, 2002 Ontario's power had been a "publicly-owned" service, provided at "fixed costs" for over 90 years. Prior to that, electricity was privately owned and operated, sold at staggering prices (in relation to the time period), and highly volatile. .
Private owners had full control over pricing and provision conditions, and even had the ability to shut off power supply whenever it became unprofitable. Until May 1st 2002, Ontarians took for granted the low costs they had to pay whenever their power use increased drastically (winter peak hours, summer peak hours), and managed to maintain steady use, with few provision problems. When faced with such mass power issues as the great Ice Storm in the 1998, and the sweltering heat caused from El Nino/La Nina, Ontario Hydro consumers enjoyed fixed energy rates, though occasionally having to suffer small periods of power loss. On May 1st, 2002, the Provincial Government "pulled the plug" on regulated Ontario hydro costs, allowing private corporations to offer competitive pricing. This has been seen as a both a blessing and a nightmare by consumers and companies alike. On one hand, the corporations stand to make large profits from the unregulated pricing of a household necessity, while consumers would suffer the consequences. On the other, consumers are given the option of choosing which company shall provide their hydro, and have the ability to "shop around" for cheaper energy, thus causing the businesses to suffer. The State of California passed a similar deregulation in 1996, with terrifying results on the consumer side. Many customers faced prices upwards of 500% their old power prices. As well, there were frequent occurrences of blackouts/brownouts, stemming from consumer "overuse", and under "power-budgeting" on the part of the companies.
With hydro rates being deregulated in Ontario, it is hard to ignore the impact competitive pricing will have on all parties involved.