TORONTO — The Ontario Energy Board is reviewing a plan that will see electricity rates increase sharply in the coming years for many camp owners and other customers who are currently in the seasonal rate class.
The Federation of Ontario Cottagers' Associations says that for about 78,000 customers, bills will increase by $54 a month.
The proposed rate hikes are the result of an Ontario Energy Board directive to Hydro One to eliminate the seasonal rate class, and move those customers into one of three residential rate classes.
According to Hydro One, the OEB decided that the distribution rates applied to the seasonal class don't appropriately reflect the cost of providing service.
If the plan is implemented, bills will increase for those customers transitioned to the Low-Density residential class, while approximately 70,000 customers moving to the Medium Density residential class will enjoy a slight decrease in their bills.
The first staged increase could be implemented in January 2022 or later.
Gill said Hydro One has advocated for a number of years for the retention of the seasonal rate class, but the OEB chose to proceed with its elimination.
"What we're prepared to do is try to protect our customers, and gradually phase these increases in," he said.
Customers will receive letters in the coming weeks outlining details as well as the OEB's public consultation process.
"The letters we are sending out to each individual customer will give them how this decision will impact their bills. The letter is also an invitation to the process, where they will see our report that's published, and there's also the spectrum of impacts to customers," Gill said.
Ontario Cottagers Associations warns of hardship to many rural and northern residents
The Federation of Ontario Cottagers' Associations is speaking out against the change, describing it as alarming for more than half the roughly 150,000 seasonal -class hydro customers.
The group represents associations from Kenora to Cornwall.
Executive Director Terry Rees says FOCA plans to participate as an intervenor in the hearing, and will remind the OEB "about the hardship these changes will deliver to so many rural and northern families."
Rees said the federation has warned in the past that this change would result in a dramatic increase in electricity charges for remote and rural customers, including many people in northern Ontario.
"That's exactly what's playing out here. Hydro One, to its credit, has recognized the significant impact to its customers and has said as much to the OEB, as we have. The OEB has decided, notwithstanding that, it's going to move ahead and have Hydro One eliminate the seasonal class."
Rees said the energy board is obliged to consider input from stakeholders, and that FOCA has had modest success in the past in getting the OEB's ear, however "they've been sort of tone deaf" on this issue.
He said he encourages customers to participate in the hearing nonetheless.
"It's one thing for us to say on behalf of people that this is something that's going to be unaffordable but I think it's important that people's voices be heard."
Rees said even though the OEB is an independent body that "theoretically" doesn't answer to the premier and cabinet, it may also be useful to lobby MPPs.
"The energy policies that affect all of us are a creature of the province. We've got a link on our website if people want to weigh in."
He added that the matter of household affordability is something that should be in the realm of politicians, and they need to know how this change is going to affect their constituents.