Following the Ontario Energy Board’s (OEB) decision to eliminate Hydro One’s seasonal rate class, the hydro supplier will be sending out letters to affected customers over the next few weeks, detailing the expected impacts and encouraging customers to have their say on how the changes are implemented.
The elimination of the seasonal class has been a contentious issue since the OEB first made the decision to transition Hydro One customers to rates based on location density in 2015. Hydro One submitted a proposal to retain the seasonal class in July 2019, but the OEB maintained their decision to do away with it in September 2020. In the coming weeks, Hydro One customers will receive letters with details on being moved to one of the three residential rate classes as well as the projected bill impacts. The OEB will hold a hearing, expected to happen later this year, to review Hydro One’s Oct. 2020 report on the elimination of the seasonal class and their proposed implementation plan. The plan includes rate mitigation measures for customers who are expected to see a total bill increase of more than 10 per cent.
“We’re very concerned about the rate impacts of this,” said Spencer Gill, vice president of customer services for Hydro One. “Our proposal does take that into consideration, and so we want customers to have their say on that as well.”
To voice their opinion on the implementation plan, customers can file a letter of comment, or they can register as an intervenor to be actively involved in the hearing. Those interested in participating as an intervenor must apply to the OEB by March 15, and details on getting involved will also be included in the letters to customers. Customers can contact the OEB’s public information officers about the proceeding via phone, but inquiries and comments made by customers on such calls will not be part of the record for the hearing.
“It would be good if customers read the notice and decided to participate,” Gill said. “Many customers will see increases, but there will be a number of cottagers as well that will see decreases, so I think it’s important that they understand how this decision will impact them.”
The OEB has not yet decided whether the changes will take effect on Jan. 1, 2022 or on a later date.
“The implementation date will depend on the extent and complexity of the issues that may arise during the course of the current proceeding,” said OEB spokesperson Mary Ellen Beninger. “The OEB panel hearing the case will decide when and how the remaining steps in eliminating the seasonal rate class will be implemented.”
The OEB also has yet to decide the form of hearing, which could be oral or written. The board is asking customers who think an oral hearing is necessary to explain why by writing to them by March 15.
If an oral hearing is selected, it may be held virtually due to COVID, Beninger said, but the panel will decide closer to the time of the hearing. During the proceedings, the OEB will also hear questions and arguments from intervenors, but the focus will be next steps in eliminating the seasonal class as the OEB will not reconsider their decision.
“The OEB has found that the distribution rates currently charged to seasonal customers do not appropriately reflect the cost to serve them,” Beninger said. “More information is available on the OEB’s website on the Seasonal Rates webpage. That webpage describes the history and current status of this proceeding and explains how the OEB determines the costs to serve customers.”
To file a letter of comment, or to review the reports and other information related to the hearing, visit the OEB’s website.