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In Ontario the prices that local electricity distribution companies such as Lakefront Utilities can charge their customers are set by the Ontario Energy Board (OEB). Every five years Lakefront proposes a "price list" for the next four years. This year was Lakefront's time to propose charges for January 2022 to January 2027. The OEB requires that charges be based on planned expenses, forecast electricity usage, allowed investor returns, cost of borrowing and many other factors. An analysis of all of these factors is presented to the OEB in a lengthy document (this year Lakefront submitted over 1200 printed pages together with dozens of spreadsheets). In addition to the OEB, representatives of affected groups – homeowners, low income consumers, large industrial users, etc. – submit written questions about Lakefront's proposed rates. As in 2016, the Cobourg Taxpayers Association (CTA) was accepted by the OEB as one of the official intervenors to analyze Lakefront's proposal on behalf of the residents of Cobourg.

In addition to the usual increase in rates, Lakefront proposed several additional charges. Particularly important for Cobourg's many seniors was a charge of $2/month for customers who are not computer savvy and prefer a printed bill. A $15 special charge for duplicate bills was also proposed. Lakefront wanted to penalize large users such as our Northumberland Hills Hospital with a "standby charge" if they choose to install their own solar panels or other power sources to reduce CO2 production. Due to the efforts of the CTA and the other intervenors, none of these new charges were approved. Changes from Lakefront's original proposal include:

  • The total bill increase for the typical residential customer using 750 kWh per month was reduced to 4.43% or $4.96 per month.  This is a significant reduction from Lakefront's proposed increase of 6.76% or $7.57 per month. It represents a saving of about 35% on Lakefront's electricity delivery charge and totals upwards of $300,000 per year. This increase in rates is for Lakefront's operations only. Depending on the cost of power your total bill may increase by a different percentage.
  • Due to Lakefront's error in preparing their 2017 rate increase, customers have been underbilled for their electricity usage over the last four years. The error resulted in an undercharge of $1,294,772. This underbilling will be collected over the next five years by a special charge of $0.0012 per kWh. This additional charge will increase the typical residential customer's bill by $0.90/month and will also impact commercial users. Residences and businesses who use more than the average will pay proportionally more. Lakefront will include an explanation of this special charge as part of your January 2022 bill. "OEB staff encourages Lakefront Utilities to implement additional processes and procedures to prevent similar errors in the future and to monitor and identify potential mistakes sooner."
  • There will be no additional charge for printed bills although homeowners will be encouraged to convert to electronic billing.
  • Lakefront has used EngageCobourg to survey local residents. For one survey they received only 9 responses from their over 9,000 customers. Lakefront has promised to investigate more inclusive means of obtaining customer feedback.
  • There will be no special charges for duplicate bills.
  • Customers who install solar panels or other power sources to reduce CO2 production will not be penalized with a standby charge.
  • To help low-income users with the higher costs of electricity, Lakefront will increase their funding for the Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) from $6,247 to $10,000 per year.
  • Lakefront recognized that there has recently been an increase in outages attributable to defective equipment and has agreed to focus more resources on addressing defective equipment issues.

Volunteers from the CTA have worked many hours to ensure that Lakefront Utilities is run efficiently, encourages environmentally friendly energy conservation plans and that Cobourg's electricity users get the lowest possible rates consistent with a reliable service.

Ken Strauss
Cobourg

Resources:

The OEB's complete, 100+ page, final decision is available at https://www.rds.oeb.ca/CMWebDrawer/Record/729992/File/document

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