London Hydro says thousands of Londoners eligible for a subsidy to assist with rising hydro bills haven’t applied for relief.
A year after it was first offered by the province, hydro officials say two-thirds of Londoners haven’t applied for the Ontario Electricity Support Program.
“Seven thousand customers have made use of it, but we think there may be as many as 20,000 customers in London that could make use of it and we would like all of them to apply,” said London Hydro CEO Vinay Sharma.
How much a household is eligible to receive from the program depends on their total income and how many people live in a home.
Sharma says he’s “concerned and surprised” so many Londoners haven’t applied for the hydro bill help. “The beauty of it is it isn’t help, traditional low-income help, it’s help for working folks,” he said.
Most Londoners could save $30-$50 per month if they’re eligible, although some could see as much as $75 per month in savings.
Sharma says customers may not be aware of the subsidy despite marketing efforts.
Londoners who think they are eligible can call London Hydro or seek help at Salvation Army Centre of Hope. The subsidy is separate from recently announced plans by the province to reduce hydro bills by 25 per cent.
The city-owned utility has also managed to provide a small amount of relief for all in the Forest City. The typical household in London will see savings of 51 cents per month, which works out to about $6 a year as a result of “program efficiencies.”
While the number is small, London Hydro is responsible for only 20 per cent of the local hydro bill. Sharma says there are three reasons for the slight decrease.
“The wires and poles that you see on the street are becoming more efficient as we invest, our customers are helping us by using electronic media to interact with us, and paperless billing means we are reducing our mailing costs,” he said.
In an annual report delivered to city politicians on Monday, Sharma said London Hydro is in good shape.
The utility, which is 100 per cent owned by the city of London, has increased in value to $450 million and is the largest utility in the region.
London Hydro provides an annual dividend of $5 million to the city and is currently the subject of an asset review by city hall. Last year, officials came close to a merger with another utility from the region. Sharma says eventually, he thinks London Hydro will merge with other utilities.
“I think the region has to come together one day because that’s the only way to deliver better service for all stakeholders,” he said.