Friday, 09 April 2021 19:00
Estonian Life No. 14 2021 - Tõnu Naelapea
The problem with monopolies is simple. There is no other place to go. No option is available. And, alas, one has to pay through the nose for such. We can do without some services. Cable TV is an expensive luxury. But we do subscribe, for it is the only game in town. These days a telephone landline is perhaps also not necessary. Considering the cost. But one thing that we do consider essential is electricity. To light dim rooms. To enable cooking as well as saving perishables in a controlled environment, known as the refrigerator. To read at night, by the warm glow of a carefully selected lamp. The list is long.
Power outages are accepted as part and parcel of the unavoidable. Weather and demand do put a demand on the supply system of this modern, not a convenience but a requirement for quality of life. And it is expensive. One utility that we cannot imagine doing without.
But it is not as if the user has a choice. You are tied to the grid. And the supplier. Previously this writer has carped about how in Toronto we are faced with exorbitant rises in paying for electricity. Actually for supply, rather than usage so much. Thankfully, Toronto Hydro has understood during this pandemic that leads the majority of people to follow rules, be indoors, use more electricity than usual just so, that we can virtually work. They actually lowered rates, acknowledging the reality and need to work from home. Kudos.
But Hydro One is another entity altogether. Those of us fortunate enough to have a place to escape to – read cottage – from the urban bustle, must have been gobsmacked by the recent notice that the monopoly delivered by mail to their customers. In our case, our cottage on leased land at Kotkajärve, a beautiful Muskoka property that allowed pre-pandemic many wonderful hikes. No running water, a kybo (outhouse) for serious needs, otherwise the bush does just fine. For a male, at least. Yet one needs to cook – although there is a firepit built there to allow for the best grilled meats, fish and vegetables. And at night one needs electricity to see the board of the game chosen by the offspring. Who face the <I>vana kartul</I> with trepidation.
Having listened to our premier and his off-kilter advice, it has been more than a year that our “bubbled” family has been in Paradise North. Paying the rent on the land-lease is not an issue. But Hydro One’s audacity in jacking up “seasonal” customer rates is quite unbelievable. Used to be that one paid for the electricity used. Then one began to pay for mere connectedness. As in delivery. The sum paid, just for having a meter. Not for what actually was used. Now the seasonal category is being eliminated, with at least a 10 % increase in getting electricity to a quiet place in the woods. Pending legislators and bureaucrats, of course.
Certainly, there are maintenance costs, keeping the electrical lines and transformers en route in good shape. Yet – to pay for just being connected? In a country, where from Bell Canada on the captive subscriber already pays, as a rule, not with all services, thankfully, more than anywhere else?
A seasonal customer is just that. The KJ cottage was acquired for the next generation, not the older generation, the parents. Who as noted, play by the rules. Having to move to a new rate class, justified by Hydro One as a protective measure so as to avoid large bill increases is illogical. At least to this captive bill-payer.
One wonders. Why does not this country, with abundant natural resources – from the power plants driven by Niagara Falls and others similar, nuclear – and safe – electricity generators have better protections for the end-users? Who literally have no choice.
Electricity distribution rates should be moderated by the actual cost of serving the customer. Not arbitrarily, as Hydro One’s advisory makes clear. One has no idea how cottagers at Seedrioru and Jõekääru are affected. But at KJ, where cottagers keep the place financially alive, excepting for the – will they happen this year? – scout/guide camps and Metsaülikool, our wonderful Forest University, are expected to pay more, while renting the land under the cottage seems somewhat usurious. My personal viewpoint. The well-compensated pensioners, some of them Estonians, on the Hydro One (which had an extraordinary number of vice-presidents at one time) plush benefits plan perhaps do not see the need to keep sanity and common sense rather than profit in view.Tõnu Naelapea