Cottage electricity bills to climb
By Chad Ingram
If you own a cottage in Haliburton County, or anywhere in Ontario, for that matter, it’s possible that your electricity bill for that seasonal residence is about to go up, and in some cases, go up substantially.
The Ontario Energy Board, which is the province’s energy regulator, is pushing for the elimination of the seasonal rate billing class, which has traditionally applied to all cottage properties in the province. Depending on their location, cottages would then be billed under either medium-density (R1) or low-density (R2) classes, the latter being more expensive since it entails higher delivery costs.
Hydro One is asking that the OEB consider alternative options for seasonal residents.
“Since 2015, following direction from the Ontario Energy Board to develop a plan to eliminate the seasonal rate class, Hydro One has advocated on behalf of its customers on how the elimination of this rate class would have a negative effect on more than half of our seasonal customers,” communications staff for Hydro One wrote in an email to the Times. “By eliminating the seasonal rate class, approximately 54 per cent of our customers could see a significant increase to their bills.”
According to the Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations, Hydro One has confirmed to the association that 84,000 seasonal customers could see bill increases of 175 per cent.
“Hydro One will be submitting an updated report to the OEB in mid-July that identifies another option for seasonal customers,” reads the email from Hydro One. “This updated report will reflect the 2018-2022 distribution rate, which was also directed by the OEB. It is important to note that Hydro One cannot proceed with any changes, including the elimination of the seasonal class, without an OEB order. Once the report has been submitted to the OEB it will also be made available to the public on their website.”
According to FOCA, the move to all-fixed rates, currently underway, adequately addresses concerns about low usage customers not carrying their share of costs, and the elimination of the seasonal class would provide a small benefit to some cottage owners while creating substantially larger bills for many.
“The elimination of the seasonal class will result in over 70,000 customers moving to the R1 class and close to 84,000 customers moving to the R2 class, a large majority of whom are low-consumption customers,” FOCA’s website reads. “Hydro One’s detailed analysis demonstrates that the move to all-fixed rate alone (already underway) addresses the key concern of some customers that low-consumption customers are not paying their fair share of costs. The analysis also demonstrates that from a customer’s perspective, very little incremental benefit is gained by the elimination of the seasonal class. The elimination of the seasonal class combined with the move to all-fixed distribution residential rates results in only a small benefit to the 70,000 seasonal customers moving to the R1 class, and very large negative impacts on the 84,000 seasonal customers that would move to the R2 class.”
According to FOCA, while customers moving to the all-fixed R1 class could see reduction of $7 to $9 a month off their bills, customers moving to the all-fixed R2 class could see an increase of some $65 per month on their electricity bills.
Hydro One is encouraging seasonal customers to get involved.
“We are committed to engaging with all of our customers on the things that are important to them such as safety, reliability and costs,” the email from Hydro One reads. “Hydro One’s proposed option takes into consideration all of its seasonal customers across the province along with the feedback it received during the consultation with seasonal customers in 2015. Hydro One expects that as part of the OEB process, seasonal customers will have the opportunity to participate in the review of the updated report. We encourage customers to participate in any opportunities to provide the OEB with feedback on this initiative.”