McCaig explains new utility bills

With the opening of the electricity market May 1, town residents will notice their next utility bill from the Fort Frances Power Corp. will look quite different—and perhaps a little confusing.
But FFPC CEO Mark McCaig hoped to shed some light on what customers will be seeing when they open their mail during a presentation at Monday night’s regular council meeting here.
“There’s a host of charges that were not typically seen,” McCaig told council as he pointed out the various portions of the new “unbundled energy bill” on a large mock-up.
The items on the bill are broken down as follows:
•market service charge;
•network transmission;
•cost of energy;
•power agreement credit;
•debt retirement charges;
•connection transformation;
•distribution charge;
•customer charge; and
•energy supply administration.
While most of the charges are tied in with either the actual cost of distributing electricity or alleviating the debt of the former Ontario Hydro, McCaig noted it’s only the cost of energy that will see any potentially sudden changes since the electricity market opened to competition.
“If you see an increase on this bill, I can assure you it doesn’t come from our distribution charges. We have a zero percent rate of return,” he remarked.
“What I would be doing as a resident of Fort Frances is watching the electricity market. Our bill is gong to reflect what’s going on with the electricity market.
“If you’re with a retailer, it may not,” added McCaig.
He stressed another part of the bill—the power agreement credit—also should be a point of interest to FFPC customers as it reflects the benefits of the historical agreement between the town and Abitibi-Consolidated.
“It has been, and continues to be, a nice thing to have,” said McCaig. “We’ve worked really hard to maintain this—to keep the prices as low as possible.”
As an example, a typical residential energy bill with a consumption of 1,000 kWh in one month would see an energy cost of $44.75. With the agreement, a credit of $12.30 would bring that amount down to $32.45.
McCaig stressed residents “shouldn’t be alarmed” when they receive their new bill.
“I’m not talking about the cost. I’m talking about the number of pages. Remember, it’s a transitionary bill reflecting both the old and the new billing system,” he explained.
The large mock-up of the new “unbundled” bill will be on display at the Civic Centre for a while for bill-paying customers with any questions.
When Coun. Deane Cunningham asked McCaig if he had any predictions about the electricity market, he replied higher costs certainly are possible within the next six months.
“The forecasted capacity and the expected demand are tight. It can be a somewhat volatile market that can change in hours,” McCaig said, adding that what happens with the market is dictated by the southeastern part of the province, especially during the summer months.
“But unless something happens, weatherwise, down east, it should be okay,” McCaig said.