By Ellwood Shreve, Chatham Daily News
Fisher, who has 22 residential tenants mostly in Wallaceburg but a few in Chatham, said several of her elderly tenants on fixed incomes have come to her with their concerns over their electricity bills and to see if she can help.
Fisher has been working to try to get her tenants registered with the new Ontario Electricity Support program – www.ontarioelectricitysupport.ca – which is aimed at helping low-income residents with their hydro bills.
Ontario Energy Board | Ontario Energy Bill Reduction | Electricity Support Program
OESP is an electricity support program intended to provide ongoing monthly bill payment support to low income consumers. For these consumers the program will replace the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit.
“Whether that’s going to help them or not, I don’t know,” she said Monday.
Fisher said the cost of electricity is expected to rise again, “so these bills are not going to get better,” adding everyone is going to feel the impact.
She said her tenants are very careful with their power use and they can’t understand why their bills are so high.
“It’s really not right.”
Fisher is also concerned about the impact rising electricity bills will have on her ability to operate her rental company, Fisher Apartments Ltd., which her family began in 1978.
Fisher said she doesn’t raise the rent on her units often, but would like to have some leeway to cover increases in property taxes and maintenance costs.
But with higher electricity rates now impacting tenants, she said, “what kind of room is that going to give a landlord?”
Chatham resident Janet Blomme, who owns an older three-bedroom bungalow home, has quickly found herself deep in the hole because of costly electricity.
Blomme said her bill from Oct. 9 to Nov. 9 was $215.44, which had jumped to $379.89 for the Nov. 9 to Dec. 9 billing period. She said her electrical bill from Dec. 9 to Jan. 11 was a staggering $566.60.
In the meantime, Blomme said she has fallen behind and is how facing an outstanding electricity bill of $879.
Blomme, who has been on a budget for years, had even had built up a $1,200 credit on her utility bill at one time.
“It ain’t that I’m running anything more, it’s just the hydro (cost) is going up,” she said.
Blomme said she has a credit on her natural gas bill and has called Union Gas to see if she can get that rebated so it can go towards her hydro bill.
She also sees no other choice but to cut back on other expenses, such as groceries.
Blomme, who has many elderly friends on pensions, said she is concerned the choice they will be forced to make is choosing electricity over their medications.
Garry Symons, director of corporate services for Entegrus, of which Chatham-Kent is the majority shareholder, said, “the commodity (cost of power) continues to go up.”
He added it’s part of what the Ontario government has publicly announced.
Symons said about 80 per cent of the bill sent to Entegrus customers is a “pass through” for the cost of power, of which approximately eight per cent goes to Hydro One for transmission, 60 per cent is commodity and the remainder goes to the government. He added the local utility receives the remaining 20 per cent for the cost of distributing hydro to its customers.
He noted the commodity charge increased in November and is slated to rise again in May.
Symons said at the beginning of the year some other changes took place, including the elimination of the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit, which was a 10 per cent credit on every bill.
For the average residential customer with an 800-kilowatt hour consumption per month, he said it works out to be about a $15 impact on the bill.
As well, the debt retirement charge residential customers was dropped, which is a savings if approximately $5.50 for the average household.
Symons said another charge, that works out to be about 25 cents on bills, is also in place.
“Everything changed Jan. 1, so people are going to start seeing the changes to their bills roll in through February and March,” he said.
Symons said the distribution charge by Entegrus has remained pretty flat for about the last five to 10 years.
Entegrus is a local distribution corporation and is regulated by the Ontario Energy Board (OEB), which approves prices that can be charged to customers.
Symons said Entegrus has recently completed a cost-of-service application and is in the process of putting together the new rates that it was approved for by the OEB. He added customers will receive information on the new rates will take affect in May.
When asked about conservation measures, he said the utility offers plenty of information and programs which is available on its website at www.entegrus.com.
Fisher points a finger of blame at the provincial government for the current situation.
She said when an Auditor General report shows that Ontarians were overcharged $37 billion for electricity, then that indicates “there’s something obviously wrong with the way this hydro is going.”
Noting she doesn’t like to talk about politics, Fisher said, “I can tell you right now, whoever made these decisions doesn’t know what they’re doing.
“That’s the scary part about it,” she added.
The Daily News contacted the provincial government to ask about the rising cost of power.
An e-mail response received late Monday from Ontario’s Ministry of Energy, stated: “Our government continues to ensure a clean, reliable and affordable electricity system for all Ontarians.”
The e-mail added the province has a number of programs in place that help consumers manage rising electricity prices through the installation of energy saving measures, or by using energy wisely, which are delivered by electricity utilities.
As well, the ministry stated Ontario recently announced that in partnership with Enbridge Gas Distribution and Union Gas it will invest $100 million from the Ontario Green Investment Fund to help up to an additional 37,000 homeowners take advantage of these programs.