The past year has been rather controversial for Ontario’s power giant, Hydro One.
At the provincial level, the Liberal’s partial privatization of Hydro One has generated polarizing opinions.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne repeatedly stated that Hydro One’s privatization would not, in itself, be positively correlated with the size of power bills, but March brought news of Hydro One’s President and CEO earning over $6 million in 2017 (an issue currently within the Liberal party’s sights).
At the local level, namely rural Ontario, things aren’t looking much better – or cheaper.
On April 5, 2018, Kevin Wilson of Vankleek Hill’s own Wilson Farms got a disturbing call from a Hydro One representative.
“On the phone, the employee told me: ‘We’d just like to notify you that, if you do not modify your [power] usage, we will be raising your hydro bill by 35-45% in the upcoming year.’”
This news came as a shock for Wilson. Apparently, Wilson Farms has been identified as a large user who’s needs are constantly increasing, making them a target.
Shortly after getting the news from Hydro One, Wilson posted on Twitter to see if anyone else had received a similar call. In a short amount of time, Wilson was contacted by many who found themselves in the same position.
Being a licensed grain elevator, Wilson Farms requires a great deal of power to operate 24/7. Moreover, the farm has seen an annual growth of 25% for the past six years.
“We already pay $58,000 a year in power usage just for the grain elevator,” stated Wilson.
A 40% increase on that amount would bring it up to $83,000, an imposing figure that has Wilson considering various options, including a fuel generator.
“That’s a $150,000 investment. We’re anticipating $15,000 of diesel fuel a year. We figured the generator would be close to a four-and-a-half year pay back,” said Wilson.
“Hydro One contacted me for a second time to try and resolve the issue. He asked if we would be willing to participate in another usage audit. I told him: ‘Yeah, we’d gladly do it, but to what avail?’ They were here last year and told us to change half a dozen light bulbs. It’s not even a drop in a bucket!”
Wilson stated that the senior auditors with whom he spoke were quite helpful in trying to find solutions that would be viable alternatives to him going off grid through the use of a generator.
“Right now, we’re waiting for the senior employee to get back to us with solutions and an explanation as to why we magically have to pay 40% more, especially since there have been no changes to the infrastructure. What brought this on? How do they think other farmers will react to this? They’ve privatized a crown asset and now, everybody’s paying the piper.”
In the long run, one can’t help but wonder what situations like this will mean for rural Ontario.