Good news for Ontario seasonal hydro customers

Published: April 7, 2020 · Updated: April 9, 2020

Hydro towers Photo by Wang An Qi/Shutterstock

The OEB made a decision about Ontario’s seasonal hydro rate class.

Good news on at least one front. The Ontario Energy Board has agreed with Hydro One that the decision in 2015 to eliminate the seasonal rate class should be reversed. Many cottagers fall into this rate classification and were waiting for the hammer to fall. After a lengthy review, on March 12, the OEB released its “decision on a motion (the Motion) regarding the Decision” on seasonal rates.

The board examined Hydro One’s argument and agreed with the utility on several key points. The first was that the 2015 decision to eliminate the seasonal hydro rate involved two errors: “(i) error of understanding that the seasonal class was not a density-based rate class; and (ii) error of not concluding that the load characteristics of seasonal customers are sufficiently different from their neighbours to justify a separate rate class.”

The OEB also agreed with Hydro One “that the OEB’s subsequent decision to move to all-fixed residential distribution rates is a new fact that was not previously in evidence…As such, there was no consideration or assessment of the impact of the move to all-fixed residential distribution rates.” Changing electricity delivery rates means that customers would see a “fixed” fee on their bills, and that change would likely result in significant increases in those bills for low-use customers, such as cottagers. This switch is being phased in over nine years for seasonal customers.

Your hydro bill is going up. Ouch!

This March OEB decision, however, did not consider any proposed changes to the seasonal rate class, stating that “further direction with respect to the next steps to hear the merits of the Motion will be given in due course.” In other words, this decision is not the final word on the seasonal rate class, and the OEB will have more to say about how utilities handle those customers.

Several intervenor organizations submitted letters in support of Hydro One’s motion against eliminating the seasonal hydro rate class, including the Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations, the Vulnerable Energy Consumers Coalition, and the Consumers Council of Canada. The Balsam Lake Coalition also intervened. FOCA’s submission also included letters of support from three large cottage organizations: the Lake of the Woods District Stewardship Association, the Lake of Bays Association, and the Georgian Bay Association.

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