Since 2010, major power outages have cost Hydro-Quebec dearly. The Crown corporation paid $ 114.6 million as a result of Mother Nature’s whims.
According to a document obtained under the Access to Information Act, the most difficult year on the distributor’s portfolio was 2013. Across the province, the bill to restore electricity services had risen To $ 41.4 million.
These sums were used to pay “employee salaries, external services and the purchase of goods,” says Hydro-Québec. At that time, 17 days had been counted, particularly during the months of January, February, July and December, when thousands of citizens had been deprived of electricity.
On 31 January, the city of Quebec City had been the victim of violent gusts. Roofs of houses had been torn off, in particular that of a residential building on 25 th Street in Limoilou. More than 35,000 subscribers found themselves in the dark in the Quebec City and Chaudière-Appalaches regions. Across the province, there were more than 100,000 disconnected homes.
Between 2011 and 2013, as the major breakdown bill exceeded $ 16 million, additional costs were felt on consumer electricity rates. In order to mitigate the impact of the outages on Hydro-Québec’s portfolio, the Régie de l’énergie allowed the distributor to set up a mechanism for recovering operating expenses. Each year, a provision of $ 8 million, based on the average of the years 2001 to 2007, excluding extreme values, is dedicated to major breakdowns. A deferred charges account, for those times when the bill exceeds $ 16 million, also allows the transfer of the amounts due to another fiscal year.
“A practical way to calculate the price impact of an expense is that $ 100 million equals 1%,” explains Marc-Antoine Pouliot, Hydro-Québec’s spokesman. In 2012, the bill for power outages was $ 24.1 million. “The first $ 8 million is already budgeted. The difference then up to $ 16 million is subtracted from the profits. And finally, the remaining gap is reflected on the customers’ rates, “he continues. For example, for 2012, the impact was 0.08% on the rate increase of 4.3% in 2014.
This was one of the biggest increases in 10 years. This resulted in a surge in electricity bill of about $ 95 per year for the average homeowner. Initially, Hydro-Québec claimed an increase of 5.8%.
For 2013, the additional amounts were raised on the increase in 2015 of 2.9% of the tariffs. “It was 0.3% upward pressure,” says Mr. Pouliot
On average, bad weather conditions cost the Crown corporation between $ 10 million and $ 25 million annually. And the latter does not have an insurer. “Our insurance is sort of our gap account. This allows us to transfer part of the bill of unpredictable events to another year, two years after, “concludes Mr. Pouliot.
Since 2013, the bill of major power failures is less and less salty. In 2015, Hydro-Québec had disbursed $ 5.7 million. For 2016, data will be available in August.
Electricity flights up in Quebec
Theft of electricity continues to give Hydro-Québec many headaches. The number of cases reported jumped by 12.5% in 2016, compared to 2015.
According to a document obtained through the Access to Information Act, since 2012, the state corporation has registered 2,945 cases of theft of electricity. Since January 12, 2016, it has claimed a little more than $ 13.12 million, including applicable fees and penalties, for people who have tampered with their homes to save money.
“This is a priority issue for us. It is a reality and it is criminal to steal electricity, “said Marc-Antoine Pouliot, spokesman for Hydro-Québec. “We have put in place the resources to fight theft. We have about 60 investigators and data analysts working on fraud files. […] There are residential customers who fly, business customers and people who are facilitators. They sell their service to steal electricity, “he continues.
For 2016, 605 instances of electricity abuse were recorded across the province, and Hydro-Québec claimed approximately $ 1.79 million, compared to 538 cases in 2015, and the Crown corporation billed $ 1.87 million $.
Electricity flights account for an average of 0.3% to 1% of total electricity sales in Quebec each year. For Hydro-Quebec, this translates into losses of between $ 40 and $ 100 million.
“It is a phenomenon that affects all the electricity companies in North America,” notes Mr. Pouliot. “People who steal Hydro-Québec steal all Quebecers … It’s a shame, because these losses are going on electricity rates of other years,” he adds.
As an example of fraud, the spokesman for the Crown corporation advances the production of cannabis. “There have been a number of instances in the past of holding marijuana production greenhouses that were stealing electricity,” he concludes.