Pity Ontario’s Ombudsman sorting through Hydro One mess

Daffyd Roderick

Daffyd Roderick: the former writer for TIME now an apologist for Hydro One.

The Toronto Star recently ran an article about the second quarter results for Toronto Hydro and Hydro One. Hydro One’s spokesperson, Daffyd Roderick, made this comment about delinquent accounts: “When it came down to making a decision on whether an account went into collections, we had to be iron-clad certain that the account was truly in collections, and not having an issue caused by us.”

Talk about openness, compassion, and transparency—and an admission about their mucked up billing system! That system is now under review by Andre Marin, the Ontario Ombudsman. Hydro One customers are in deep trouble; remarks like those from Mr. Roderick would not be acceptable in the private sector, but seem to be standard fare from this provincially owned monopoly.

Coincidentally, Cheryl Gallant (no relation) MP for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke initiated a Federal Investigation into Ontario’s “smart meters,” claiming that she has “been inundated with complaints from Ontario Hydro One customers.”

As further evidence of how things work at Hydro One, I recently received a call from the daughter of an old and dear friend who is aware that I keep an eye on the Ontario electricity sector.  The call was related to how Hydro One treated her when she inquired about her billing. Her story went like this.

Hydro One installed a smart meter sometime in 2011 and for some time after (including a bill of June 20, 2013) the bills reflected the time-of use consumption as actual readings. She noticed the meter was not displaying digital readings and called Hydro One several times about this, complaining about the lack of a display.  It took Hydro One almost a full year, to the spring of 2013, to replace the meter.

The bills from June 20, 2013 on were estimates which she paid and from that point forward they paid Hydro One what she thought would cover power use—no bills reflected actual readings up to May 2014, and then no other bills arrived after that estimated May 2014 bill.

In July 2014 she called to inquire about the status of her account and were informed they had a credit  balance of $2,718.00.  Then on August 15th she called again and this time was informed she had a balance owing of $5.910.00. That’s a difference of more than $8,600.00.   Worse, Hydro One said the claim related to the arrears began in June, 2012.

It gets weirder: a package of billing data dated August 8, 2014 finally arrived in the third week of August, with one of the bills showing the above credit balance.   The bill claimed it was for the period May 2012 to June 2012 (that is during the time of the old, now replaced, smart meter) and billed them for $201, less a credit adjustment of $103, leaving a credit balance of $2,621.00.

The other bill included was also dated August 8, 2014 but this one indicated a balance owing of $1,792.00.  There were changes made to the time of use and other items (this was also when she had the old meter).

After receiving this new set of bills, my friend’s daughter spoke with a Hydro One representative.  When queried about the backdating and changes, the supervisor danced around the questions and finally offered “term financing” of the bill for a lengthy period, during which Hydro One would not charge interest.   There was no explanation on how Hydro One recovered that old smart meter to recapture updated readings they were now billing for!

A complaint to the Ontario Ombudsman’s office has been submitted and the couple are now awaiting feedback.

This is probably only one of the thousands of stories that the Ombudsman is now trying to deal with.   Between the communications people at Hydro One and the outsourced (Inergi/Capgemini) customer service area I am sure Mr. Marin is getting the run-around just as my friend’s daughter did.

I was reminded of a Will Rogers quote which went, “I don’t make jokes.  I just watch the government and report the facts.”

Hydro One’s messed up billing system sure isn’t a joke to its customers. It is my hope that that the Auditor General revisits Hydro One after the Ombudsman’s report is released, and focuses on the mess before we see another run of questionable bills and have to endure the bafflegab  from Hydro One spokespeople.

©Parker Gallant,

September 2, 2914

The views expressed here are those of the author.

Website editor note: when I called to report that my new “smart meter” was now reading exactly DOUBLE my former power usage, the person answering for Hydro One offered to have “someone come out and find out what you are doing wrong.”

Ontario doesn’t need more wind power

ListowelFairFloat

ONTARIO DOESN’T NEED MORE POWER SAYS WIND CONCERNS ONTARIO

Large Renewable Procurement means higher electricity bills for consumers

September 1, 2014, Toronto— Ontario’s new Large Renewable Procurement process aims to add more expensive, intermittent wind power to Ontario’s power capacity at a time when Ontario doesn’t need the power, and can’t afford new generation, says Wind Concerns Ontario.

In comments made to the Ontario Power Authority on the draft new procurement process for “renewables” such as wind and solar, the advocacy organization said it cannot understand why suppliers for more power are being sought at this time.

“Ontario lost more than $1.5 billion last year because we had power being produced at the wrong time of day for people to use it,” says president Jane Wilson. “We had to sell it off to other jurisdictions like neighbouring U.S. States at bargain-basement prices. And now, we ‘re looking for more? It doesn’t make sense.”

Adding more renewables to the mix will increase electricity bills for Ontario’s already strapped consumers. “I am very concerned about energy poverty,” Wilson, a registered nurse, says. “We are hearing from young people and seniors who say they have reached or exceeded their limits and just can’t pay any more. Why is Ontario scaling back on cheap hydro power, and looking to buy more expensive wind?”

Wind Concerns Ontario also noted concerns about the approval process for wind power projects. At present 85 municipalities in Ontario have declared themselves to be unwilling hosts to the wind power plants, which can reduce property values, diminish attractiveness for tourists, and produce noise and vibration that disturbs sleep and affects health for some residents. Seven projects have been approved since the June election, Wind Concerns says. The cost of those projects works out to $135.7 million a year or $2.7 billion over the life of the 20 year contracts, or an additional $28.28 per household every year.

“Kathleen Wynne, Bob Chiarelli and their government keep saying that they are not going to ‘force’ wind power projects on communities,” Wilson says, “but just last week they approved a huge power project at Plympton-Wyoming in Lambton County—that community has been very clear about its wishes. This new process fails to define what community approval means. Our communities need to know that, now.”

Wind Concerns commented on other issues with the Ontario Power Authority such as a need for power developer to disclose all the impacts of a proposed project to local governments, for their sales staff to adhere to a code of practice, and for wind power contracts to contain measures that allow landowners to change their minds about having turbines on their property.

Wind Concerns Ontario is a coalition of community groups and individuals concerned about the potential impact of large-scale wind power generation projects on the economy, on the natural environment and wildlife, and on human health.

Read the full Wind Concerns Ontario comment to the Ontario Power Authority on the new Large Renewable Procurement process here: Aug23Input into Large Renewable Procurement RFP Framework

wco.president@gmail.com