Hydro One billing errors: no ‘fix’ even after a year

As if skyrocketing power rates, due in part to “renewables” like wind, wasn’t enough, billing system woes continue at Ontario’s power monopoly Hydro One, despite promises to fix the situation. Here is an update from Parker Gallant.
A year ago, on March 7, 2014, the Ontario government undertook what the Toronto Star referred to as a “shake up” following “an over-billing fiasco and a scathing Auditor General’s report.” The former referred to Hydro One’s mess after implementation of their new billing system, and the latter referred to “nepotism” along with high wages and benefits at OPG.  The government appointed Sandra Pupatello (runner-up to Kathleen Wynne in the Liberal leadership race) to right the wrongs as the new Chair of Hydro One.   She was quick off the mark stating, “We are going to fix it” (the billing problems).
It’s not fixed but hopefully, Ms. Pupatello is enjoying her $150K stipend for acting as the Chair of Hydro One while retaining her position as Chief Executive of the Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation which pays her about the same amount.
The same can be said for the spokespeople* at Hydro One who appear in several short videos on their website apologizing for the billing mess.  On the same page is a letter dated October 14, 2014 from Hydro One’s CEO, Carm Marcello addressed to the Ombudsman, Andre Marin.  In the letter he tells the Ombudsman he will shortly announce he is setting up a “Customer Service Advisory Panel” that consists of perhaps only one actual Hydro One customer, former Chief of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation,  Randall Kahgee!  Marcello also informs the auditor he plans to issue a draft “Customer Commitment” document!
Eighteen months after complaints started and eight months after the Ombudsman announced he was investigating Hydro One’s billing mess, the CEO suddenly became enlightened!  The CEO of Hydro One, the provincially owned monopoly electricity distributor to 1.2 million ratepayers, with a 134-page Conditions of Service agreement, suddenly noticed they had tens of thousands of billing problems!
If you venture into their “frequently asked questions” (FAQ) page about the Ombudsman’s investigation they state: “approximately 3 per cent of our customers have received estimated bills for too long and about another 2 per cent have gone for more than 90 days without receiving a bill.”

If one does quick math on the 3% plus the 2% you will quickly surmise 5% of Hydro One’s customers have billing problems.  Five per cent (5 %) of 1.2 million ratepayers represents sixty thousand (60,000) ratepayers.  While there is no admission of screw-ups in the videos or in Marcelo’s letter; reading the answers to the FAQ sure makes one suspicious Hydro One is trying to hide something!
Here are a few examples. I invite the reader to judge Hydro One’s ability to obfuscate.
1.What are the Hydro One billing issues I’ve been hearing about?  The move to the new system was required to improve customer service while replacing outdated and unsupportable technology.

2.What is Hydro One doing to fix this issue?  We are manually reading over 11,000 two-tiered meters to correct bills that have been estimated.
3.Why do I keep receiving an estimated bill when I have a Smart Meter?  The reason you have an estimated bill is that the meter is not communicating properly with our network.
4.Why is my bill so high? Unfortunately some customers have experienced inaccurate estimates. (So why does the answer to Q. 6 state:  “billing issues you may have heard about in the media are not related to meter accuracy.”)
5.Will I get a bill for an actual reading soon? Right now Hydro One is manually reading over 11,000 two-tiered meters for customers who have been billed on estimates. If your meter is part of this program, you should receive an actual bill soon.  (So, 60,000 bills messed up and only 11,000 meters being read!)   
6. Is the accuracy of Hydro One’s meters causing the billing issues?  Secondary tests are completed by Hydro One as they arrive from the manufacturer and then again we have sample testing of meters once they are ‘in service’.
7.Why has my meter been changed twice?  There have been some cases where the meter is not communicating properly with our network.
8.I use baseboard heating in my home. What can I do to conserve energy?  For homes that are heated with electricity, those heating costs make up to 60 per cent of your bill.
None of the answers admit to the screw-up with the new Customer Information System (CIS), nor to the purchase of “uncommunicative” smart meters. There is also no indication that any employee lost their job because of  these mishaps!
A full year has gone by, and the billing mishaps continue despite the promise by Ms. Pupatello to “fix it.”  The energy portfolio continues to be mismanaged without any consequences.   If an error of this magnitude occurred at a privately owned company, shareholders would demand action— but that’s not how things work at the provincially owned monopoly that is Hydro One!
© Parker Gallant,                                                                                                              March 10, 2015
* Average annual salary of the four Hydro One spokespeople on the letter and videos from the 2013 “Sunshine List” is $315,323. Lowest is $151,405 and highest is $724,917.  Hydro bills to these four are like buying a cup of “Timmies” coffee!
Editor’s note: The billing mess continues, as Parker says. In today’s Ottawa Citizen is a story of a couple who were billed $25,000 in error. A Hydro One “customer care specialist” is reviewing their account. The Office of the Ombudsman of Ontario has received 9,800 complaints about Hydro One, the Citizen reports, the most complaints ever received about a single organization.
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent Wind Concerns Ontario policy.

What's your reaction?


  • John Vincent
    Posted March 10, 2015 8:44 am 0Likes

    Don’t forget, Hydro One is still a Crown corporation, and as such takes direction from the current government, in this case Wynne. For those who don’t know, the Smart Meter was fostered on Hydro One, and us, by the Market Design Committee of the late ninties ( I was a utility participant of the Committee). the MDC specified a form of time of use meter should be assigned to each customer to encourage conservation of electricity. Since Hydro One is the delivery point of power for a large number of customers, they were charged with finding the technology and implementing it by the government of the day. The government is till charging them with that task. Yes, the technology is not up to the task, so the Hydro One is trying to make a sows ear into a silk purse at the order of the government. Is it a mess? Definitely! Who to blame? The government!. Will privatising Hydro One change things? No! Get the government micro managing the power buisiness. Just as we blame them for green energy, we must blame the for this debacle, its all the same thing.
    In the early ninties, the public foamed for privatisation of Hydro, on the basis power would be cheaper. Look at the mess it got us into and the power isn”t any cheaper by a long shot. Unless you get the government of the power company’s backs, nothing is going to change. Blame the right people, not the messenger.

  • John Vincent
    Posted March 10, 2015 10:07 am 0Likes

    i agree. However, any sell off is not going to solve the problem the government has got Hydro One into. You can say bad mamnagment, perhaps that is so. Any new owner is going to have to put up with the same thing.
    The best bet is get rid of the Smart Meter all together. Doesn’t help the Liberals income, but it does settle the public down. They don’t accomplish what was intended and obviously make a mess of everyhting.
    As you well know, a private company serves it’s hare holders, not necessarily the consumer, unless its to the shareholder’s benefit. the same would happen to the complete sale of Hydro One.
    Consumers complai about Hydro One’s high delivery costs. Has anyone looked at the cost of new transmision lines being put in because of the Green Energy act? That’s ne transmission lines associated with pwind mills and soalr plants. There are hundreds of miles of new structure put in to accommadate electrcity flow that will not happen. In City of Kawarttha Lakes we have five 100 acre solar plants that , perhaps, put out 5% of their rated output. There are untold miles of new structure to accommadate these. Kawartha Lakes is soliciting, and has applications for another 300MW’s worth. that equates to about 30 more 100 acre parcels. I know this site doesn’t consider solar as a problem, but its probably a bigger problem in our pocket books than wind, just not as visual. Brock TWp to our west is the same. Each one of these 30 new sites will require miles of new transmission lines that will go on Hydro One’s transmission bill, but no one even considers that.
    We’ve got to look at the whole picture. We can’t just focus on one. They’re all interconnected.

    • Barbara
      Posted March 10, 2015 11:33 am 0Likes

      The problem was that there was so little information on solar and much more information on wind. It wasn’t neglected and no way to get needed information on solar.
      Both are very much a part of this situation along with small hydro projects.

  • Parker Gallant
    Posted March 10, 2015 11:37 am 0Likes

    The story that our President, Jane Wilson linked to the Ottawa people who received the additional bill for $25K from Hydro One posted this in the blogger comments:
    “Rachel Potvin
    We spoke with Hydro One today and we are still on the hook for around $22,000. The fact that the Hydro One media contact lead the reporter (and us in turn) to believe that the bill would be eliminated is so unbelievably cruel. They also told us it will be at least a week before we see a revised bill because “they are still having issues with their billing system”.
    They must think we all are paid what the Hydro One workers are paid!

  • John Vincent
    Posted March 10, 2015 12:10 pm 0Likes

    Parker: As a retired Ontario Hydro worker, I wish I was paid what every body seems to think I was paid, and wish I had the pension that everyone talks about being Gold Plated……..haven’t seen it yet.
    Barbera: I agree, solar keeps their head close to the ground (figuratively and otherwise) and trying to find information about them is difficult. They are doing well while wind is getting trashed. That despite the FIT to solar is far higher than wind and is conuming thousands of acres of farm land, not to mention our dollars. All the more reason to go after them.

    • Barbara
      Posted March 10, 2015 1:07 pm 0Likes

      NextEra Energy Partners, LP Form 10-K for the year ended Dec.31, 2014 and filed 2015-02-20
      Sombra, Solar 20 MW, IESO
      P.22, 29% of NEPs revenue was denominated in Canadian dollars.
      P.33, “NEP expects to generate NOLs and NOL carryforwards that it can use to offset future taxable income, as a result, NEP does not expect to pay meaningful U.S. federal income tax for approximately 15 years.”
      NOL=Net Operating Loss.
      The other NEP Canadian projects are wind projects.
      Enter: NextEra Energy Partners or NextEra Energy and go to NEP.
      These are official U.S. Government records and available to the public.
      Their wind and solar project are now in NEP,LP.

  • John Vincent
    Posted March 10, 2015 1:27 pm 0Likes

    Barbera: Thanks for the info. So, essentially, they get away scott free, while we pay thorugh the nose.

    • Barbara
      Posted March 10, 2015 2:19 pm 0Likes

      SEDAR search and didn’t find any documents that included NextEra Energy Partners or for just searching for any company name with NextEra included.
      Want to check this again in case something was missed?

  • Parker Gallant
    Posted March 10, 2015 1:30 pm 0Likes

    Based on this interview on BNN today it looks as if this trial balloon that the Wynne led Liberals are suggesting is going nowhere fast. Bay Street don’t want it. It was also not surprising that the spokesperson for this investment fund doesn’t even buy Ontario issued bonds. A sad commentary on our times in Ontario.

  • Devin schell
    Posted March 16, 2016 1:34 pm 0Likes

    I’m just another customer in Muskoka that has hydro bill issues that have not been resolved! My power has been cut as of Friday of the labour day weekend. I have joined the class action lawsuit but don’t know what else I can do is there any other lawyers that I can contact?

    • Wind Concerns Ontario
      Posted March 16, 2016 3:07 pm 0Likes

      Sorry to hear of your problems with Hydro One. Our focus is on wind power and its impacts; we do not refer people to law firms, sorry.

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