Support needed to lobby for equalized hydro billing costs, says Billings rep

KAGAWONG—A Billings councillor says local support is needed more than ever for his proposal to lobby to have hydro costs set up in an equalized billing system Ontario-wide.

This comes after the Manitoulin Municipal Association (MMA) met with representatives of Hydro One last week to discuss the current Hydro One billing model.

“I think it is up to us if we want to do anything and make the billing costs fairer and equal across the province,” stated Brian Parker, after the MMA meeting. “I have been told the door is open to have this discussed. At one time there was equalized hydro billing in Ontario.”

Mr. Parker had brought forward a letter to the MMA he had received from Beatriz Correa, customer consultant, customer relations centre, with Hydro One recently. “This email confirms that you discussed a billing model where you believe that hydro charges could be proportioned in a fairer, equal way right across Ontario, as based on a process published by the Ontario Provincial Police. As advised, this is a concept that should be discussed with the Ontario Energy Board or your local Member of Provincial Parliament as they are in a position to address your recommendations,” wrote Ms. Correa.

“We have sent this letter out to all Manitoulin municipalities who can review the letter and decide if they agree we should take this forward to the OEB and our MPP,” said Mr. Parker. As well, he said anyone having trouble with their hydro bill should contact him on his email at brianparker52@yahoo.com.

Brenda Bracken of Hydro One provided the MMA with a break down of the hydro billing model, addressing concerns that had previously been raised about rising hydro costs. “I have been with Hydro One for almost 35 years in customer service, billing and public affairs.”

“On Manitoulin Island we have a little over 10,000 customers who are part of our Northern region,” said Ms. Bracken. “We have 1.3 million customers in the province; we serve all areas outside of large urban areas (served by local municipalities or private companies. In 2006-2007, under the direction of the province we and other distributors started installing smart meters, and there are now 1.2 million customer’s on smart meters, which has allowed for time of use billing.”

In outlining the charges on a Hydro One bill, she explained that this included the delivery charge, distribution flat charge, smart metering entity charge, distribution volume charge, transmission connection charge and transmission network charges. “Hydro One only controls the delivery charge portion of the bill, which pays for the company’s infrastructure and costs,” she told the meeting. The bill also includes the debt retirement charge, as well as regulatory charges, the customers actual hydro use and HST.”

“I understand the MMA has raised concerns that rates are higher in Northern Ontario than in southern Ontario, but this is not correct,” said Ms. Bracken. She explained that rate classification does have an impact on delivery charges. The latter is based on the type of residential service, use of the service and the type of density in a certain area. “For instance, Brampton has a higher density residential area than a rural area because there is more of a cost to serve rural homes. But it doesn’t matter if we are in Kagawong or Windsor, they are all billed the same: based on classification.”

Mr. Parker said in a printout he has from Hydro One, Ontario pays the third highest electricity bills of any province in Canada.

“In Ontario we don’t have as much hydro-electric power as, say, Quebec,” said Ms. Bracken. “Also, green energy is expensive.”

Adam McDonald questioned why he and other people on Manitoulin see a difference in their delivery charges compared to neighbours. Ms. Bracken explained that this might be due to using less or more kilowatts or if they are in slightly different rate classification areas.

“People are trying to use their systems during off-peak times, but the delivery charge is still whacking them, even higher at times,” said one MMA member. Ms. Bracken said this isn’t a normal occurrence.

“If you are using less kilowatts of electricity than your neighbour, then you should be paying less,” said Ms. Bracken.

“I tend to disagree, my delivery fees are more than hydro use on my bill,” said Mr. McDonald. “This is one of the biggest complaints across Manitoulin Island,” stated Leslie Fields.

“Does Hydro One have any plans to address the high costs of hydro and delivery charges?” asked MMA Chair Ken Noland.

“We don’t set the rates. We know there is a lot of pressure on people, but hydro is an essential service and we are under a lot of pressure to continue to build infrastructure and provide better service to all our customers,” added Ms. Bracken.