No deal for Hydro One and Hydro Ottawa

Kelly Snider
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NEGOTIATION. Hydro One customers will not be transferred to Hydro Ottawa any time soon, as negotiations failed to reach an agreement.

Currently, 45,000 residents are under Hydro One instead of Hydro Ottawa.

Currently, 45,000 residents who are under Hydro One are paying 15 per cent to 30 per cent more every month  than those under Hydro Ottawa. As well, many of the residents are from the Orléans and Cumberland ward.

The City of Ottawa has been trying to bring Hydro One customers to Hydro Ottawa since the amalgamation in 2001, as many believe paying more while being in the city boundaries is unfair.

Bryce Conrad, president and chief executive officer of Hydro Ottawa informed city council in a letter that after months of negotiating a transfer, it will not be happening.

"Unfortunately, and with regret, we are unable to conclude a commercial agreement with Hydro One to acquire these 45,000 customers in the outlying areas of the City of Ottawa," wrote Conrad.

The CEO noted in his letter Hydro Ottawa and Hydro One operate in "a heavily regulated industry."

"Approval from the regulator, the Ontario Energy Board, would be a requirement to effect any transfer or sale of customers from one utility to another. As part of any purchase/transfer process, the Ontario Energy Board, would need to be satisfied that the transfer of these customers meets their statutory objectives-a primary one being to protect the interests of consumers with respect to prices."

Conrad wrote acquiring these customers at a price that would satisfy this "no harm" test would be financially irresponsibly on the part of Hydro Ottawa.

"Conversely, disposing of or agreeing to sell these Hydro One customers to Hydro Ottawa below this price would be rejected by the Ontario Energy Board as potentially causing 'harm' to existing Hydro One customers."

He finished his letter stating they are disappointed with this outcome, but can assure the shareholder that every effort was made over the past six months to correct and remedy this historical mistake.

Cumberland Councillor Stephen Blais, who was pushing to make this deal happen, said it is very disappointing that the negotiations failed.

"Since amalgamation residents in the east end and other parts of Ottawa have been paying higher rates simply because they were on the wrong side of the line before amalgamation was done," said Blais. "I think it's unfair."

Although it is unfair, Blais added that since provincial regulations allow the sale to make the price for hydro so high, it would just lead to higher hydro rates for everyone and require the city to sell parts of Hydro Ottawa.

"We're talking hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars. Just the price is so high it doesn't make sense. It will hurt residents more in the long run."

Blais himself is a Hydro One customer, so he said he understands how residents may feel about the failed negotiations. "I know I'm at my wits end as the city has been dealing with this for over a decade."

Organizations: Hydro One, Ontario Energy Board

Geographic location: Ottawa, Orléans

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