THUNDER BAY — The electrical utility that serves Thunder Bay and Kenora wants feedback from the public before it develops an application for an anticipated rate increase.
Synergy North has launched a new online platform that customers can use to voice their opinions not only on the cost of energy but on issues such as service reliabiity, sustainability, safety, vegetation management and infrastructure replacement.
"We are focused on ensuring we incorporate customer feedback into our long-term plans," says Andy Armitage, vice-president, Customer and Information Services.
The utility is scheduled to submit its 2024 rate application to the Ontario Energy Board in August 2023.
"We're looking for input into some of the programs that we're running. It will allow us to gauge customer input both into what they are looking for and costs," Armitage said.
As one example, he noted that Synergy North is looking at clearing more vegetation from utility infrastructure because overgrowth can contribute to power outages.
"As you clear vegetation, there's less outages and it's safer to work around the lines. That obviously costs a little more money when you do that, so there's a trade-off [with] the amount that it costs and the time it takes to do it."
One of the questions in the survey asks customers how many outages they have experienced in the past year.
Among other issues, the utility wants to hear if customers feel priority should be given to replacing aging infrastructure, and whether it should invest in infrastructure to accommodate emerging technology.
Armitage said Synergy North does not yet have a sense of what the next set of rates might be.
"That's what we're looking at right now. These are some of the questions we're asking: How much would be palatable. What's going to happen. It's too early to tell what the exact amount would be."
A second public survey will be produced once rates are developed, so customers can see how they would be impacted.