SUDBURY -- A dreaded rate increase could soon be coming to cottagers and campers who use seasonal rate payers under Hydro One.

The Ontario Energy Board ruled Hydro One had to eliminate the rate which it had offered to many over the past four decades. Hydro One is now in the process of sending out new notices where rate payers will find themselves classified as either urban, medium or low density.

"That's going to have implications for about 80,000 seasonal rate payers whose rates will essentially double when that goes into effect," said Terry Rees, executive director of the Federation of Ontario Cottager's Associations. (FOCA)

Electricity Pricing | FOCA

Rees is referencing low density rate payers in which Hydro One will reportedly have to spend more money to service those areas.

According to their figures, under 2022 pricing, seasonal rate payers who were using 50 kWh were paying roughly $54.06. Under the new changes, they'll be looking an increase of $53.79.

"There had been a class for the past 40 years called seasonal which was meant to capture like-minded consumers who are rural and they're there for only part of the year. Hydro One's been told by the Ontario Energy Board that these people should be reclassified," he said.

"The north is where there will be a tremendous amount of impact because if you're a low density customer that needs lots of line between you and the next camp or cabin, those are the people that are going to see the worst impacts so people are really concerned," Rees added. "Affordability's already a big challenge and the pandemic's put us under a whole new layer of strain."

CTVNews reached out to the Ontario Energy Board for comment.

It responded, saying it found the distribution rates currently charged to seasonal customers were not reflecting the cost to serve them.

The decision had initially been made in 2015 and was confirmed in 2020 after a hearing was held to consider a proposal to maintain the seasonal class by Hydro One.

Implementation of the OEB Decision to eliminate the Hydro One Seasonal Rate Class | Ontario Energy Board

"The OEB has begun a proceeding and has directed Hydro One to bring forward an implementation plan for eliminating the seasonal rate class, including a rate mitigation plan," it added.

"We argued against this particular solution but since then the OEB has decided it will move ahead with eliminating the seasonal rate class," said Hydro One Vice-President Customer Services Spencer Gill. "The next step in the process right now is for customers to participate."

They're seeking customers to participate and provide feedback into the OEB's hearing as part of the rate implementation plan. 

Seasonal Rates

"What worse time to have these types of financial burdens that are going to be put on individuals, and once again we're going to see hardship that is being put on communities and we're seeing what happens again when you go down the route of privatization," said Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Michael Mantha (NDP).

Mantha says he'll be speaking with the Minister of Energy to relay the concerns of his constituents and will be following the matter closely.

A good portion of his riding has seasonal cottages, camps and cottage owners.

"People across this province were promised a 15 per cent reduction on their hydro bills, that has not happened," he added. "People have experienced higher hydro bills and that has become a pattern with this government."

CTVNews reached out to the Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines Greg Rickford and didn't hear back before our deadline. 

The changes to rates won't happen until at least January 1, 2022 and 45 per cent of those former seasonal rate payers will also be getting a decrease in their rates.

In the meantime, both Mantha and Rees are urging those affected by the move to make sure their voices are heard.

"It's important and FOCA thinks it's important that our elected officials are made aware that this change is going to affect their household budgets and their families," said Rees.

Hydro One says it's advocating for a gradual, phased-in approach.

Seasonal customers will get their OEB notice by March 5, 2021.