Removal of seasonal hydro classification sparks controversy

A Smart Meter ( file photo by Melanie Irwin)

The Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations (FOCA) is speaking out against recently announced hydro rate changes for cottagers.

The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) has removed the “seasonal hydro customers” classification and as a result, low use, low density seasonal customers may see a bill increase of $60 per month.

For some people, that will result in a 100 per cent hike in the distribution portion of their bill.

FOCA Executive Director Terry Rees said that classification has been around for about 40 years, and the change will impact about 150,000 rural and northern customers.

“Household budgets are already stretched,” said Rees. “A lot of people on modest incomes have rural homes, and I think this is going to certainly be a negative thing for a lot of household budgets and, frankly, for the rural economy. It’s not a positive development.”

Rees said some people will actually notice a small benefit from the rate change, but notes the downside for more than half of the seasonal customers is far greater than any benefit that others will notice.

He said Hydro One thinks the status quo with the new distribution rates will be a fair and equitable way to apportion costs.

Despite that, he said they’ll be the ones that have to answer to customers about rate changes.

Lambton County Deputy Warden Kevin Marriott said locally there are around 500 seasonal cottagers from the US, and would guess around 1,000 seasonal cottagers in total in Lambton County.

He said he’s had issues with the OEB in the past.

“Rural Ontario pays higher rates for delivery than cities do because they figure that it costs more to get it to us in the country, so I’ve always had an issues with how they look at things, because I think everyone should be treated equal whether you live in downtown Toronto, or out here in the country of Lambton County.”

“It varies on how it affects cottage owners. What I read is that up to half are going to be affected quite a bit,” said Marriott. “And I don’t understand really why some are affected negatively and a lot, and some aren’t affected that much, but there’s quite a range in the scale.”

It’s unclear when the changes will take effect, it could take a year depending on when the OEB completes its rate review.

-With files from Colin Gowdy