Toronto

Customer gives Toronto Hydro's new 5-star rating system failing grade on timing

A new five-star rating system from Toronto Hydro allowing customers to track their energy use online has some crying foul over their failing grades.

'See you’re the problem, not us,' is the message one woman says she got from her rating

Vanessa Glen Lee is one of 171,000 hydro customers who are among the first to receive their energy-use reports in the mail. She says the timing of her failing grade rubbed her the wrong way. (CBC)

A new five-star rating system from Toronto Hydro allowing customers to track their energy use online has some crying foul over their failing grades.

Last month, the energy utility launched the online portal PowerLens, providing customers with a rating based on a comparison with homes of similar features and square footage using the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation's publicly available data.

The tool allows customers to analyze the spikes and dips in their energy use and apply for handy cost-saving rebates. It aims to reduce the load on the grid by 35.36 GWh, or the equivalent of 4,200 homes, and rings in at a cost of $3 million per year paid for by the province.

But at a time when many have been feeling the pinch of rising hydro costs, some Torontonians aren't thrilled to be receiving reports with one-star ratings.

'See, you're the problem'

New mother Vanessa Glen Lee is one of them.

"It just kind of came off as, 'See, you're the problem, not us,'" Glen Lee told CBC Toronto.

A one-star rating is shown on a January PowerLens report. (CBC)

"Especially with something like this coming right after they hiked the prices," she said. "It just felt like everyone's complaining about their hydro bills so here's a way for us to show you that it's actually your fault."

Glen Lee says recently switched out her old windows, has all new energy-efficient appliances and says she tries to conserve as much energy as she can.

"We know that our home could be better, but we're working on it," she said.

1-star rating meant to prompt action

Brian Buchan, communication director at Toronto Hydro, says the utility opted for the star-rating system because it's easy for consumers to make sense of it.

Brian Buchan, communications director at Toronto Hydro, says the utility opted for the star-rating system because it's easy for consumers to understand. (CBC)

"The five-star rating is definitely understood from whether it's Yelp or TripAdvisor or other such sites," he said.

"Unfortunately some people are going to get one star, but maybe that's an indicator that there's room for them to conserve and reduce their electricity costs."

Some 171,000 customers are among the first to receive their reports in the mail. Some Powerstream and Hydro One customers have also received similar reports, Buchan said.

A request to the provincial government for comment on the timing of the initiative was not returned Friday.

With files from Chris Glover

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