Ontarians can switch hydro bills from time-of-use to tiered pricing — but should they?

Click to play video: 'Electricity prices to rise in Ontario'
Electricity prices to rise in Ontario
WATCH ABOVE: Two years after candidate Doug Ford promised to lower electricity rates by 12 per cent if elected, Ontario consumers are about to start paying more for power. As Seán O’Shea reports, the higher costs will show up on bills in November – Oct 30, 2020

This Sunday, Ontarians will wake up and look to recover from their limited Halloween festivities while also adjusting to their clocks falling back.

As an added punishment, they are going to have to deal with rising hydro rates. Yet the plus side, they may be able to save themselves a few dollars on their hydro bills with a new option that the Ontario Energy Board has enacted.

First, let’s talk about the rising hydro rates, though.

The Ontario Energy Board sets new prices every May and November and the move is said to be based upon the cost of supplying the electricity.

Under the government’s COVID-19 pricing plan, hydro rates were initially set at 10.1 cents per kilowatt-hour (¢/kWh) of electricity for time-of-use customers, regardless of the time of day. On June 1, that figure jumped to 12.8¢/kWh.

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On Nov. 1, Hydro users will be billed 10.5¢/kWh for off-peak, which runs from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. and on weekends. It will cost 15¢/kWh for mid-peak, which runs from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. on weekdays while they will have to pay 21.7¢/kWh for peak, which runs from 7 a.m. until 11 a.m. and 5 p.m until 7 p.m. on weekdays.

“The total bill for a typical residential customer who uses 700 kWh per month will increase by about $2.24 or 1.97 per cent, after accounting for the bill relief provided by the Ontario Electricity Rebate (OER), a total (pre-tax) bill credit that appears at the bottom of electricity bills,” the board told Global News in a statement.

“The Ontario government has increased that rebate from 31.8 per cent to 33.2 per cent effective November 1, 2020.”

Consumers might be able to get that price down as they will have the option to change the way they are billed for their electricity use.

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“Right now, you as a customer, if you use your electricity over 24 hours, your smart meter tracks when you’ve used that electricity and your hydro company will bill you based on how many hours in the month you’ve used it on — peak, mid-peak, off-peak,” said Barbara Shortreed, vice-president of customer care and communications for Energy+.

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“Customers can now choose their pricing for bills starting Nov. 1, 2020. The default is time-of-use rates, but customers can opt in to tiered rates if they prefer,” K-W Hydro spokesperson Kelly McMath said.

This will allow consumers to be billed on a flat fee regardless of when they are using the most power.

The pricing in homes will be 12.6¢/kWh for the first 1,000 kWh and will rise to 14.6¢/kWh for every kWh after that. For businesses, that price will shift after 750 kWh.

Click to play video: 'Ontario slashes hydro rates providing relief during coronavirus pandemic'
Ontario slashes hydro rates providing relief during coronavirus pandemic

Shortreed says that means customers need to look at how and when they use electricity to determine if it would be better for them to be on time-of-use prices based on when they use their electricity.

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Rather than do the math themselves, the OEB has created a calculator on its website to allow consumers to punch in their bill or bills and see what plan works best for them.

“Then a customer can make an educated decision or choice on whether they think they should be on tiered or time of use,” Shortreed said. “It’s different for every customer.”

One thing to consider in all of this is how much you are working from home during the pandemic and how that could change going forward. But Shortreed says you are allowed to opt in and opt out of the plan with your hydro provider at any point, though that change will not take place automatically but will operate on how your billing cycle works.

“Customers will start being billed on tiered rates on their next bill, provided they have notified us of their wish to change at least 10 days before the start of their next billing period,” McMath said. “If they have notified us of the change fewer than 10 days before the start of their next billing period, then the change will take place on the billing period after that.”

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To make the change, you will have to fill out a form that should be available on your hydro provider’s website.

“It may not be a significant change for many customers,” Shortreed said.

“It may just be a small change. But, at least it gives the customer a choice.”

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