Montreal

Hydro-Québec is going to reimburse you. Here's how it will work

Early Sunday morning, the Quebec government passed a bill that will change how Hydro-Québec rates are determined. Bill 34 will freeze rates in 2020, and also authorized a refund for customers.

Bill 34, passed early Sunday morning, authorized a refund for customers and will freeze rates in 2020

Under Bill 34, Hydro rates will be frozen as of April 1, 2020, and customers will receive a refund. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

The Quebec government passed a bill early Sunday morning that will change how Hydro-Québec rates are determined.

Under Bill 34, Hydro rates will be frozen as of April 1, 2020, and increase for four years after that, indexed to the rate of inflation.

But the new law also means Hydro customers, including commercial and big industry clients, will be refunded a total of about $500 million — money the government promised to return after determining Hydro earned higher returns than they were allowed to in recent years.

Here's how that reimbursement is going to work.

  • You'll receive money if you were a Hydro account holder (defined as having received at least one electricity bill in your name) in 2018 or 2019.
  • The amount will depend on how much electricity you consumed between Jan. 1, 2018, and Dec. 31, 2019.
  • Residential customers will receive an average of about $60, though the exact amount issued to each customer will be known in January.
  • Customers who are still account holders between the end of January 2020, and April 1, 2020, will see a credit applied to their bill.
  • If you were an account holder in 2018 or 2019 but you aren't one anymore, you will get a cheque sometime between the end of January 2020 and Dec. 31, 2020. You'll have to get in touch with Hydro, either through your online account, by filling out a form, or calling 514-385-7252 or 1-888-385-7252, to make sure your address is up to date.

Panned for populism

Starting in 2025, the provincial energy board will review Hydro rates every five years.

The bill, which was passed after the CAQ government invoked closure over the weekend, has been panned by the opposition and experts alike for being populist.

Interim Liberal Leader Pierre Arcand says consumers will end up spending more in the long run because until now, Hydro rates have only been raised through an artificial inflation rate of less than two per cent.

When the CAQ first presented the bill, it said in recent years, Hydro-Québec earned higher returns than authorized by the Régie de l'énergie and pledged to reimburse $1.5 billion to Hydro customers.

Premier François Legault says the reason the total amount went from $1.5 billion to $500 million is that the rest of the money is being invested in other programs, such as reducing daycare rates and school taxes, and increasing family benefits.

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