THUNDER BAY — As of New Year's Day, thousands of summer camp owners across Northwestern Ontario will pay more for receiving electricity from Hydro One.
The first increase reflecting the elimination of the utility's seasonal rate category takes effect on Jan. 1, and will be followed by annual hikes over the coming decade.
Customers have received notices in the mail containing an estimate of how much their bills will go up in 2023 as a result of higher delivery rates.
In late 2021, the Ontario Energy Board ordered Hydro One to terminate the seasonal rate category and move these customers into one of its remaining residential rate classes, including low-density and medium-density.
A low-density area has a cluster of fewer than 100 customers, with at least 15 customers for every kilometre of power line, while a medium-density area has a cluster of 100 or more customers, with at least 15 customers for every kilometre.
The energy board determined that the distribution rates charged to seasonal customers didn't appropriately reflect the cost to serve them, resulting in some seasonal customers paying less than they should, and others paying more than they should.
It costs more to provide electricity to customers who live in lower-density areas where more infrastructure such as poles, power lines and transformers are needed.
The energy board estimated that a little over half of seasonal-category customers would have to pay more, but ordered Hydro One to implement the increase over 10 years and to restrict annual hikes to a maximum of 10 per cent per year.
The Federation of Ontario Cottagers Associations, which represents camp owners from Kenora to Cornwall, has said that although the phase-in period will soften the blow, this nonetheless will result in hydro bills eventually doubling for many camp owners.
It's also noted that this will be on top of any other changes in electricity rates that may be approved in the coming years.
Hydro One said it offers some programs to help customers who will face challenges paying the higher bills, including payment flexibility and budget billing.
Customers who have made their seasonal property their principal residence are eligible for government subsidies to reduce the amount they pay for delivery rates.
To be eligible, customers must live at their residence at least four days a week for eight months of the year, and the address of their residence must appear on their driver's licence.