Ottawa Citizen

Shocking cost for hookup to hydro

Couple can’t believe $33,000 bill to connect new home


Tara and Terry Cronin can’t be blamed for thinking Hydro One is taking advantage of them. They wonder how many others in similar situations the utility might be stiffing.

The couple is building a home in Tamworth, a rural community north of Napanee, and paying about $33,000 to be connected to hydro. For starters, they feel the charge is exorbitant. Though it might be comparing apples to oranges, their house, which they hope to move into by fall, will cost about $300,000 to build.

If that jolt wasn’t enough, Hydro One was ready with another. Had their property, on Adair Road, been situated 160 metres from the main hydro distributi­on line rather than 310, they would have been looking at a connection fee of about $2,400. And the utility would have thrown in two hydro poles plus wiring to make the connection.

Because their property is almost double the distance — another 150 metres from the distributi­on line — they are being charged for the complete job. That includes four new poles and four spans of wire, including one that will connect to an existing pole and the main distributi­on line.

The added distance means they don’t qualify for the two freebie poles and wiring, which would cut their $33,000 bill substantia­lly.

To ease the financial burden, Hydro One does allow some work for such installati­ons to be carried out by private contractin­g companies, which normally charge less than the utility. Contractor­s prepare the ground for the installati­on of the poles, and also do some wiring. In the Cronins’ case, that cuts Hydro’s share to about $26,800, including $1,300 for staking. The contractin­g bill will amount to about $6,000, and Tara Cronin says it appears that work involves a significan­t portion of the project.

“When (Hydro One) comes out, I’m going to sit down there and watch them,” says Cronin. “I want to see exactly what they are doing (for the money). It’s highway robbery. It’s insane.”

Had the couple wanted Hydro One to do the entire job, their bill would have been more than $38,000, including the staking for three poles. The fourth pole is replacing another to meet revised height requiremen­ts.

Why, asks an incredulou­s Cronin, doesn’t Hydro One charge them for just the two extra poles and wiring — considerin­g they would have only been billed $2,400 had their property been a mere 150 metres closer to the distributi­on line?

It doesn’t make sense and it isn’t fair, she says.

“(Hydro) was going to do two (at no charge) anyway, so why doesn’t it do those two and we (pay for two). If we needed 10 poles, why wouldn’t they do two and charge us for eight?

“I’m just looking for some fairness.”

Cronin complained to her MPP, Randy Hillier (Lanark-FrontenacL­ennox and Addington).

Though Hillier was unavailabl­e for comment, she says he promised to look into the matter. Hillier has spoken to a Hydro One employee involved in the project.

The latter says the MPP indicated he was going to speak to the Ontario Energy Board about the rationale behind the pole policy. “He is not the first MPP who has addressed this issue,” says the employee.

Hydro One says the charges apply because any work that requires more than two poles to connect a new home to a power line along a road allowance is not considered a connection, but an “expansion” of its distributi­on system.

Says a spokeswoma­n in an email: “The cost for this expansion of our system to the property, as well as what is needed to make the connection to the home, is reflected in the quote that the homeowner received for the work required.

“To ensure that Hydro One’s distributi­on ratepayers do not subsidize the cost of the work, which benefits an individual customer, Hydro One follows the rules in the Distributi­on System Code issued by the Ontario Energy Board, both when categorizi­ng work as either an expansion or connection, and when providing customers with quotes for these.”

The Ontario Energy Board, meanwhile, says its code requires a customer to “pay toward the cost of an expansion. The amount they pay is any shortfall between the revenue the utility will earn from the new assets and the costs to build and operate/maintain the new assets over a 25-year period. As a result, the customer is not paying the full amount of the expansion costs. Instead, the customer pays an amount that ensures the utility does not lose any money as a result of building an expansion and connecting the customer.”

Cronin says the reasons provided by Hydro One and the OEB fail to answer her simple query about why they are being charged for four poles and not two. When she complained directly to the OEB, it “mentioned something about not discrimina­ting.

Well, if they’re paying for two (poles) for people who need only two ... they should be paying for the first two for someone who needs more than two.

“This is very frustratin­g how they cannot see my point on the pole policies.

“We are not a mile or miles off in the bush,” she says. “We’re just off the main road, which is well travelled ... There are hydro poles coming from either end, but not where we need them.

“I can’t believe they are getting away with this.”

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