Cottagers upset with Ontario Energy Board directive to eliminate seasonal hydro rates

ONTARIO – An order by the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) to Hydro One to eliminate the seasonal rate class and move all customers into one of its density-based rate classes is not sitting well with the Federation of Ontario Cottagers Association (FOCA).

This decision has been preceded by numerous rate applications and intervenor submissions by FOCA and others over the past five years. 

“FOCA remains extremely concerned about the financial impacts this change will have on the estimated 78,000 seasonal customers that will be moving to the R2 (low density) residential class and will face increases of $60 per month or more based on Hydro One’s last estimates,” Terry Rees, president of FOCA, said in a release.

“It is not what we anticipated or what we were hoping for,” Mr. Rees told the Recorder. “Now Hydro One will go back to OEB and redo the numbers and rates for the various customers; then the public will be able to weigh in again. We’ll continue to do our part in voicing our concerns.” 

“Ultimately the group who will see the most dramatic increases will be seasonal users, those in remote areas who are low users of hydro,” said Mr. Rees. “No, it won’t include everyone—there will be some winners and some losers.” 

As part of the deliberation, OEB staff had argued that the incremental benefits of the elimination of the seasonal class are minimal at best, while incremental adverse impacts on certain customers will be significant,” said FOCA. “This has been a main focus of FOCA’s objection to this change for many years.”

However, in the latest review, the OEB states that, “…the submissions of the parties (including FOCA) generally focused more on the bill impacts that would flow from the elimination of the seasonal class…The fact that there are impacts associated with the elimination of the seasonal class does not render the decision to eliminate the class incorrect.” 

OEB also noted that rural or remote rate protection (RRRP) and distribution rate protection (DRP) subsidies exclude seasonal customers who are joining the other existing residential rate classes, since the program is restricted to customers that reside continuously at the service address for at least eight months of the year. The OEB does not and cannot factor provincial programs such as the RRRP/DRP into rate design as the OEB does not determine how, when or which customers are eligible to receive them,” FOCA said. 

“Recognizing the significant impacts to low use seasonal being reclassified to R2 (low density) the OEB has previously stated that any plan to eliminate the seasonal rate class should include a phase-in period for those customers expected to experience a total bill impact of greater than 10 percent as a result of migrating to another class. There is not word as yet how or if such mitigation will be applied, and this will be the subject of Hydro One’s next rate submission.