Ontario has not offered an electricity rate reprieve during the latest lockdown

No electricity rate reprieve with this lockdown

Monday, April 19, 2021

Ontario’s latest COVID-19-related stay-at-home imperative has not come with an electricity rate reprieve for residential and small business customers. However, the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) has extended the annual prohibition on electricity shut-offs during the cold months to cover much of May. This ensures residential customers with hydro bill arrears will be protected against disconnection for the duration of lockdown measures.

Time-of-use (TOU) and tiered electricity rates for customers on Ontario’s regulated rate plan (RPP) were frozen at 8.5 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for the first seven weeks of 2021, but returned to the intended rate schedule with the easing of provincial public health control measures on February 23. Those rates have remained in place — with peak-time TOU costs of 17.6 cents/kWh and mid-peak costs of 11.9 cents/kWh — despite the subsequent imposition of COVID-19-related restrictions in early April.

With Ontarians once again asked to stay at home as much as possible, the OEB is now promising indebted residential customers that they can count on continued electricity service for awhile longer. Normally, electricity distributors can deliver disconnection notices April 16, thus providing the required 14 days of advance notice prior to April 30 when the annual disconnection ban comes to and end.

This year, electricity distributors have been directed to serve notices no earlier than May 6, meaning shut-offs could not occur before May 2. The provincial government’s new steps to prolong the stay-at-home period could also push that deadline still further into the future.

“Residential customers will have more time to contact their distributor to arrange a payment plan or see if they are eligible for a support program, if needed,” an April 13 OEB statement advises. “The OEB will continue to monitor the situation and may consider extending the ban on disconnection notices as circumstances warrant.”

To date, there has been no announcement about the looming semi-annual RPP rate adjustment, which will entrench a new price regime for the period from May 1 to October 31. Yet, it is known that the timing of peak are mid-peak hours will switch — making the hours of 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. the most expensive for power use, while mid-peak rates apply from 7 to 11 a.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. For customers who have opted for tiered rates, higher prices will kick in after 600 kWh of consumption for both residential and non-residential customers.

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