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Why do Ontarians call ‘Electricity’, ‘Hydro’?

The majority of residents in Ontario have never thought twice about referring to electricity as ‘hydro’. With the Ontario provincial election the term ‘hydro’ is being used even more commonly now as each of the candidates consistently refer to electricity as hydro.

I find this very confusing, and unintentionally misleading. After all, hydro-electricity is a form of electricity but not all electricity is hydro-electricity. In Ontario hydro-electricity makes up about 23% of Ontario’s total generation.

The answer to the question in the title of this blog is simple – it comes from our province’s history. What I find confusing is that, as a province, we have yet to adapt the way we refer to electricity.

Established as a corporation in 1906, Ontario Hydro was originally  known as the “Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario”. At that time, it was a publicly owned electricity utility in Ontario. In those days, the only electricity which was distributed was hydroelectricity; thus, using electricity and hydro as synonyms made sense.  The Canadian Encyclopedia describes ‘hydroelectricity’ as:

The majority of our electricity comes from sources other than hydro-electricity – particularly nuclear, natural gas-fired, and renewables like wind and solar. Given that the Canadian Encyclopedia defines hydroelectricity as, “energy produced from flowing water”, does it still make sense to use hydro and electricity interchangeably?

In my opinion, the answer is no. There are no other jurisdictions I have come across who call something as ubiquitous as electricity the wrong name. It would be akin to someone in Texas proclaiming that they couldn’t charge their phone last night ‘because the wind was out’. It sounds very confusing. I am sure they would be confused if you told them you couldn’t charge your phone because your ‘hydro was out’.

Now, to make matters worse, there are some utilities which provide services for both electricity and water.

So if you had been confused before, hopefully this blog has helped to understand the logic behind this. If you have further questions about hydro, electricity, nuclear, or power prices please give me a call at (416) 867-2927 x.4423.