Power to keep flowing this winter to people with unpaid bills

Northerners who have trouble paying their power bill won't have to fear a hydro disconnection this winter. Electricity companies across Ontario are forbidden from cutting off customers between Nov. 15 and the end of April.

Hydro utilities say unpaid bills will be spread out among other ratepayers

(Jonathan Villeneuve/Radio-Canada)

As of today, Ontario power companies are forbidden from disconnecting people who don't pay their bills.

This new annual moratorium brought in by the Ontario Energy Board remains in place until April 30.

"The bad thing is if people think this is just a free pass to not pay their hydro bill all winter long," says Wendy Watson, the communications director at Greater Sudbury Hydro.

"The moratorium will end. Then instead of owing a hundred bucks, a couple hundred bucks, whatever their monthly amount will be, it's going to be dramatically more."

There was a trial moratorium last winter between Feb. 24 and May 1.

Watson said at the end, there were 529 Sudbury hydro customers facing disconnection. Fifty-nine were cut off, but she says generally, most disconnected customers get re-connected on the same day after they find the money to keep the power flowing.

During that time, the debt being carried by the utility had grown by about $180,000, a cost, which she says, is spread out among the other electricity users.

"Ultimately it affects the rates that all the other ratepayers have to pick it up then. And that doesn't seem fair."

Watson says while they can't disconnect customers during the winter, they can continue charging interest on unpaid bills.

She recommends that Sudburians contact hydro to find out about the numerous programs designed to help people struggling to make ends meet.

"Talk to us. Don't wait until you owe us hundreds or thousands of dollars," says Watson. 


Erik White


Erik White is a CBC journalist based in Sudbury. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @erikjwhite. Send story ideas to