FFPC can help ‘demystify’ bills

Duane Hicks

The Ontario Energy Board has mandated utilities help empower their customers to make informed decisions about their electricity usage–and the Fort Frances Power Corp. has taken this task to heart.
The FFPC’s board of directors recently charted the corporation’s vision, mission, and values, setting their sights on becoming a model distributor of electricity and supplier of supporting energy services.
Armed with a talented staff and innovation, the FFPC has been realigning itself to be more customer-centric, said FFPC president and CEO Joerg Ruppenstein.
Part of this realignment in the past year has included the hiring of technical customer service representative Jeremy Nussbaumer.
In addition to class visits at local schools, Nussbaumer has started to go to FFPC customers’ homes to do “high bill complaint analyses” free of charge.
“A customer will walk up to the counter and say, ‘I’ve got this really high bill. I don’t know what’s going on. Can you help me?” Ruppenstein said.
“And we say, ‘Absolutely. Let’s take a look.'”
Nussbaumer will take a look at the customer’s billing history, do a data analysis, and work with the customer, ultimately doing a home visit and pointing out what is using so much power and causing the high bills.
“Jeremy’s demystifying their electrical usage for the customers,” Ruppenstein explained.
“So at the end of the day, the customer can make a choice about usage habits and about whether or not it’s worth their while to change their lifestyle or habits, in order to use less energy.”
Nussbaumer said customers often are surprised about what appliance use the highest amounts of electricity.
For example, he’s met with conservation-conscious customers who had energy-efficient LED lights and always remembered to turn them off when not using them, but also used plug-in portable heaters.
“If you turn off that LED light but let that electric heater run, that electric heater is like 150 LED lights running for one hour,” Nussbaumer noted.
“If you saw 150 LED lights running in your house, you’d think you were using a ton of power but when you see that little heater, you wouldn’t think that.”
“People don’t understand how much electricity is required when you have anything related to heat,” echoed Ruppenstein.
“It takes a tremendous amount of electricity to get heat,” he stressed. “That’s usually the culprit of high bill complaints.”
Nussbaumer said the FFPC certainly gets customers complaining about their bills at times. But once they learn more about why their bill might be so high, they understand.
“There’s usually an answer to a problem and it’s better than just saying, ‘Power rates are high,'” he remarked.
“That doesn’t really help them.”
Nussbaumer said the electrical industry has gotten a “bad rap” in recent years. But while rates have risen under the Wynne government, high consumption also is a problem–and it’s often something that the consumer can do something about.
“Let’s figure out what we can do to lower your consumption and figure out what the issue is,” he reasoned.
Ruppenstein said he expects the FFPC to have a lot more interaction with customers in the near future, including energy audits using the FFPC’s new infrared camera, which can be used to take a photo of a home so residents can see where heat is escaping–again, at no charge.
“We’re not profit-driven,” Ruppenstein stressed. “We’re here to genuinely help customers reduce their energy costs.
“All of the work Jeremy is doing is free of charge,” he noted.
“I don’t know of any other utility in the province that provides this level of service.”
Those who would like a high bill (high electrcial usage) analysis done can contact Nussbaumer at the FFPC by calling 274-9291.
Top-notch safety
In related news, the FFPC also received top marks for its electrical safety practices.
Ruppenstein said the FFPC underwent its annual Ontario Regulation 22-04 audit for 2016, which found the local distribution company (LDC) as “fully-compliant” for the seventh-straight year.
“It’s awesome for a small utility,” enthused Ruppenstein, adding less than one-third of the LDCs in Ontario have achieved the compliance level that the FFPC has over the last decade.
Ruppenstein credited the success of the safety program to the hard work diligence of his general superintendent, Troy Calder, and the line crew, who work in a hazardous environment every day.
FFPC customers are urged to check out its website at ffpc.fort-frances.com to see what’s new with the utility, information on provincial electricity support programs, and conservation tips.
While there, customers can sign up for e-billing, which not only convenient is but provides them with information on their electricity usage.