Province chops hydro rates because of COVID-19 crisis; off-peak rate applies for 45 days

CORNWALL — The provincial government moved to chop electricity rates yesterday as the population copes with the COVID-19 crisis.

Premier Doug Ford announced the latest extraordinary measure yesterday as authorities try to quell the spread of the respiratory sickness.

For a 45-day period, the province is suspending time-of-use electricity rates, holding electricity prices to the off-peak rate of 10.1 cents-per-kilowatt-hour. This reduced price will apply 24 hours per day, seven days a week to all time-of-use customers, who make up the majority of electricity consumers in the province. By switching to a fixed off-peak rate, time-of-use customers will see rate reductions of over 50 per cent compared to on-peak rates, according to the government.

The discount — equivalent to half the price of the 20.8-cent on-peak rate — will apply automatically to the bills of the approximately five million residential, small businesses, and farm customers currently paying time-of-use rates.

“During this unprecedented time, we are providing much-needed relief to Ontarians, specifically helping those who are doing the right thing by staying home and small businesses that have closed or are seeing fewer customers,” said the premier. “By adopting a fixed, 24/7 off-peak rate, we are making things a little easier during these difficult times and putting more money in people’s pockets for other important priorities and necessities.”

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The government effected the change with an order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.

“Ontario is fortunate to have a strong electricity system we can rely on during these exceptional times,” said Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines Greg Rickford, commenting on the measure in a press release.

“We thank the Ontario Energy Board and our partners at local distribution companies across the province for taking quick action to make this change and provide immediate support for hardworking people of Ontario,” said Bill Walker, Associate Minister of Energy.

MPP Jim McDonell observed that it’s part of helping Ontarians “make the sacrifices necessary to reduce the spread COVID-19.”

Depending on billing cycles, some customers will see the reduction on their next electricity bill. Time-of-use customers whose billing cycle ended before their local distribution company implemented this change will receive the reduced rate as a credit on a future bill.

In a related move, the Ontario Energy Board has extended the winter ban on disconnections until July 31st.

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