THUNDER BAY – The region’s two largest municipally owned electricity providers have come together under the Synergy North Banner.
On Friday, after years of negotiations and cutting away red tape, Thunder Bay Hydro and Kenora Hydro made their merger official.
The City of Thunder Bay will own 90 per cent of the newly formed company, the remaining 10 per cent of the shares belonging to the City of Kenora.
Former Thunder Bay Hydro president Robert Mace, who will handle similar duties for Synergy North, said it’s been a long time coming.
“We’ve been working together for a number of years in the north. The City of Kenora and the board of directors at Kenora Hydro determined a couple of years ago that it’s a very difficult industry for small utilities to survive in,” Mace said, following Friday’s unveiling of the new name.
“They made the decision that something had to change. We’ve been talking for a long time and were willing partners. The logical way forward for both of us was the merger of the two companies into a new company, Synergy North.”
Customers can still expect the same service they’re used to from the two former utilities, with Kenora customers still being serviced by local crews. They'll also be able to continue to use their same online log-ins to access billing and other account information.
Mace said he expects the move will save up to $900,000 a year on the administrative side, savings he hopes to pass along to customers in the form of lower rate increases the next time they apply for one at the Ontario Energy Board.
A single board of directors will govern the new company.
Kenora Mayor Dan Reynard was unable to attend, but did send along a statement saying it was a difficult decision, but he's confident it was the right move for the community and Kenora Hydro.
"Change is never easy for anyone. Years of history, success and local connections make this type of revolution a difficult one for many to understand," the statement reads.
"For Kenora, council and the board of directors of Kenora Hydro are confident that this merger is in the best interest of the long-standing utility to ensure a local presence remains for the utility and that we remain competitive in new technology and new services."
Sioux Lookout, Atikokan and Fort Frances are the only other municipally owned hydro utilities in the region. Mace said while nothing is on the table, he'd be open to discussions of further mergers with any of the three communities.