News

New parents on wrong side of Hydro boundary

Jon Willing, Multimedia Journalist
Ottawa Sun

By Jon Willing, Ottawa Sun

Josh Garby's family just paid a $333 Hydro One bill, one of the most expensive since they moved into their Stittsville-area house last summer.

"It's a bungalow. It's nothing outrageous, nothing huge," Garby said, baffled by the monthly electricity costs at his home on Lloydalex Cres.

What's worse is that residents who live in a neighbourhood around the corner, and who are plugged into the Hydro Ottawa distribution system, seem to be paying a lot less for electricity.

The delivery charge alone for Garby's last bill was $140. The delivery charge for a nearby home in a Hydro Ottawa neighbourhood was about $36.

It's one of the most frustrating things about Ottawa.

Nearly 50,000 city property taxpayers are getting service from Hydro One and not from their own municipally-owned utility because of where the boundaries are drawn.

Hydro Ottawa wants to acquire those city-based Hydro One customers but the two sides can't agree on a price.

Garby, 30, and his wife Caitlin appeared on the front page of the Sun on Jan. 2 after they had New Year's twins, William and Clare. (The babies are doing well, Garby reports.)

While it's been an exciting two months, it's also been a tough time for the family.

Garby was laid off from his construction job in December and Caitlin is facing the prospect of shortening her maternity leave from her job at an animation studio.

Garby said before the couple bought their home last August Hydro One provided a monthly bill estimate that was half the price of what they're paying today.

The couple decided to buy the house, partially based on those initial hydro estimates.

"It's been a bit of a struggle," Garby said.

"The bills are getting higher and higher. It's causing quite a bit of stress."

The family's hydro consumption mostly happens in off-peak hours. Garby can't think of any appliance that might be sucking loads of power. The family disconnected a hot tub thinking it was the problem, but it didn't make a difference on the bill. The home is heated by oil.

They're already considering moving into a Hydro Ottawa community.

Rideau-Goulbourn Coun. Scott Moffatt, who represents Garby's area, said Hydro One vs. Hydro Ottawa complaints are common but there's not much council can do.

"It needs to be a political decision at the provincial level and (the province) doesn't appear to want to do that," Moffatt said.

"People in my area have been saying it's not fair," Stittsville Coun. Shad Qadri said.

"We've been trying to discuss it with Hydro Ottawa every time we have an opportunity."

Hydro Ottawa spokesman Dan Seguin said the utility continues to work on it.

"Finding a solution that has been commercially viable for both parties has been a challenge," Seguin said in an e-mail.

The discussions with Hydro One are subject to a nondisclosure agreement.

Garby said he has asked Hydro One to at least reclassify his "low density" zone in hopes to reduce the delivery charge.

According to Hydro One, rate classes are based on density and "customers per kilometres of line."

The utility did a rate classification review as part of its 2015-2019 distribution rates application to the Ontario Energy Board.

It appears Garby's home didn't qualify for a classification change.

So, he's running out of options.

"Ideally we would like to be allowed to switch to Hydro Ottawa and take advantage to those rates," Garby said.

Twitter: @JonathanWilling


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