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Hydro One proposes phased-in approach to removal of seasonal ratepayer class

Hydro meters. File / Global News

If you’re an Ontario cottager, this is likely your final year being classified as a seasonal ratepayer for your hydro bill.

The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) is moving ahead with the removal of the special status, which means more than half of those within that classification will see a rate increase once it’s implemented.

But Hydro One is asking the OEB to phase in the change rather than have it start immediately.

“We know that our proposal is to start this phase-in in 2022,” said Spencer Gill, Hydro One vice-president of customer service.

Read more: Ontario’s cottagers facing hydro rate hike, Cottagers’ Association says

“Fifty-five per cent of our seasonal customers will see an increase on their bill and we’re really encouraging them to get involved. We know the typical seasonal customer will see an increase of 54 per cent as a result of this decision by the OEB, which is $650 a year.”

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Terry Rees, executive director of ‎the Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations (FOCA), said those moved to the low-density class will see the most change.

“Depending on how you’re changed, whether you’re changed to high-density, urban class, which is very few people, so the bulk of the 150,000 cottagers will be medium or low-density. Close to 80,000 will go to low-density and will see the most change and $50 to $60 a month on their bills,” Rees said.

“This is an imperfect system. The seasonal rate was always an accommodation for a class of customers that looked the same. By making this change, some customers will be badly impacted. Those moved to the medium-density class will see a small benefit on their monthly bill. We thought the dramatic increases to the rest is unconscionable and we’re disappointed that Hydro One has been told by the OEB that decision will stand and move forward.”

Gill notes that Hydro One advocated for a “different solution” and now the proposal is to phase in the increase over time.

The phase-in approach has not been approved as of yet by the OEB.

“We don’t want to see bills increase by more than 10 per cent as a result of this decision. That’s how the phase-in will start and will take place over a number of years for cottagers,” Gill said.

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Seasonal customers will receive a letter in the mail over the next month, informing them of how the decision to remove the rate class will impact them.

“This letter is an invitation to the next step in that process which is to get involved, and have their say on timing of the implementation and the overall approach,” Gill said.

Read more: Coronavirus — Should you go to your cottage during Ontario’s provincewide shutdown?

A date for the public consultation with the OEB has yet to be set and a decision on whether to start the new billing structure for seasonal customers in January 2022 hasn’t been made.

“The decision has been made by the OEB. So to move forward, it’s how do we implement this. We’re encouraging our customers, when they get the letter, over the next month, consider participating in this process and having your voice heard directly,” Gill said.

“The OEB wants to hear from our customers.”

Rees added that “FOCA is a long-standing intervenor (and) will continue to contribute our thoughts on this matter and we’ll do so on behalf of seasonal ratepayers that belong to waterfront property owners across Ontario.”

Global News Peterborough has contacted the OEB for comment on this story.

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