Holdco and Lakefront Utilities Report – 2023

For a second year, Holdco delivered a report on their activities to Cobourg Council – and it was public.  When former MPP and Baltimore resident David Tsubouchi was appointed Chair of HOLDCO in May 2021 he said he wanted to improve transparency and he has delivered. In July 2022, Holdco and its subsidiaries gave their first report/ presentation to Council in a public meeting (see link in resources below) and on 15 June, 2023, they once again reported on their performance.  There were reports by David – an opening overview and to close, a look to the future – Lakefront Utility Services Inc. (LUSI) Chair Robert Bell reviewed performance, Lakefront Utilities President Dereck Paul (standing in for Chair Gil Brocanier) reviewed organization and gave more details on performance and Adam Giddings talked about Finance and Customer Service.

Highlights

David Tsubouchi
David Tsubouchi

For all the details see the full presentation available in Resources below – but here are the interesting bits.

  • David Tsubouchi made a point of emphasizing that Holdco embraced ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance).  One of the 2023 initiatives is that stakeholders have been engaged to create an ESG action plan. However, it seems to be primarily concerned with “environmental” since it will help with “Green House Gas reduction & drive to Net-Zero”.
  • Governance is also an issue – David said that Holdco is “way ahead of the Regulator on Governance”
  • Although reliability has improved, they are working to improve even more.
  • Holdco has two subsidiaries: 1. Lakefront Utilities Services Inc (LUSI) which is not regulated and provides water services, Fibre Optic services, Generation Services (more on this below) and Human Resources since all employees work for LUSI. 2. Lakefront Utilities Inc (LUI) which is regulated and provides distribution of Electricity provided via Ontario Hydro.
  • Generation Services manages solar panel projects, Electric Vehicle Charger residential installation and rental and may add additional services in future.
  • Water rates are low compared to Port Hope and many other places.  Cobourg average annual water bill is $473 and Port Hope’s is $857
  • A report about the December storm said that power was fully restored after 34 hours; four linemen and three management staff worked on repairs and there were 3300 phone calls answered. (See Cobourg News Blog report on storm here).
  • Financial Statements from 2015 to 2022 are available on LUSI’s website – see Resources below.
  • Some of the low admin costs are because there were staff shortages and not paying their salaries reduced cost.
  • Although LUSI provides billing for electricity, water and sewer, there was no mention of the plan to also bill stormwater fees on behalf of the Town.  Although planned for 2023, it has not yet happened.
  • Reliability is measured with two indices: SAIFI and SAIDI. The graph below shows LUI’s performance for the period 2011 to Q1 2023.  Note that this excludes the loss of Hydro 1 supply and major events so the December storm is excluded.
LUI reliability
LUI reliability

SAIFI (System Average Interruption Frequency Index) is the average number of interruptions that a customer experiences.
SAIDI (System Average Interruption Duration Index) is the average outage duration for each customer served.

Resources

Holdco Reports

Cobourg News Blog Reports

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29 Comments
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Kevin
8 months ago

In the discussion below there are comments related to delivery charges. There is an explanation of what is included in the “delivery charge” here:
Understanding your electricity bill | Ontario Energy Board (oeb.ca)
Some parts of the delivery charge depend on how much electricity you use. Part of the delivery charge is fixed and should be the same for all residential customers ($25.57 in Cobourg?). I seem to recall that some of these charges were shown separately once upon a time.
If you go to the OEB website you might be interested in ULO pricing. Not sure if LUSI offers it. It could be a benefit to customers with an EV charging it at night. Or it could just make things more confusing.

Draven
8 months ago

It’s nice to see that we have a local utility that is lean, affordable and reliable. It’s impressive what they do with there current level of staffing and capital spend.

Bill
8 months ago

Cobourg’s annual average water bill is $473? According to my calculations, this only covers administrative charges and doesn’t include actual water/sewer usage. When you factor that in, our water bill is well more than double that amount and we are a family of two.

I concur with Heather’s post as well.

Heather
8 months ago

As a fairly new transplant to Cobourg I’ve been pretty shocked by the number of electricity outages here, at least once a month my power goes out and based on what I am hearing from neighbours I’m not alone in that. It would be great to have some transparency from Lakefront around what is causing these frequent outages and how that can be improved. Just yesterday the power went out again.

Beachwalker
Reply to  Heather
8 months ago

We called them once and were told the outage was due to squirrels. True story.

Kathleen
Reply to  Heather
8 months ago

I totally concur! One of the mini brownouts a couple of months ago tripped our basement freezer and blew a fuse. We didn’t realize it til the day after. We spent the next day cooking everything in the freezer that had thawed but were still cold.

Why do we have so many bureaucratic layers? Why can’t we get our Hydro directly from Hydro One and why can’t our Municipal Cobourg Public Works Dept. handle Water & Sewage – Actually Regulated – by the Province?

Bryan
Reply to  Kathleen
8 months ago

Kathleen,

Cobourg’s Works dept. is responsible for sewage collection and processing. The Town owns all of the related assets, liabilities, revenue and expenses. LUSI is just the billing and collection agency for the sewage charge. The Town complies with applicable provincial regulations and reporting.

Providing potable water is also a Town responsibility (statute mandated) and the Town complies with all provincial regulations and reporting. The management and operation of the Town’s water system, including billing and collection, is outsourced to LUSI. As with the sewer system, the Town (Waterworks) owns all of the assets, liabilities, revenue and expenses.

LUI provides electricity distribution services to Cobourg and a few other municipalities.
The electricity charge is set by the electricity wholesaler and the OEB (Ontario Energy Board). LUI provides the local distribution service and their service rates are reviewed and approved by the OEB.

LUI’s rates are among the lowest in the province (https://www.cobourgblog.com/assets/2023/HOLDCO-Presentation-to-Council-15June2023.pdf page 29), about $25 per month. Hydro One’s rate is about $37 per month

Leweez
Reply to  Bryan
8 months ago

Lakefront only provides electrical service to Cobourg and Colborne

Bill
Reply to  Bryan
8 months ago

Bryan,

I was charged $37.50 delivery plus $2.33 regulatory on my last electricity bill. My consumption was rated at number15 out of 26 in my neighbourhood (basically average). I don’t remember when service rates were as low as $25.00.

Bryan
Reply to  Bill
8 months ago

Bill,

LUI’s electricity rate sheet 2023 shows Service Charge $25.57
https://www.lakefrontutilities.com/rates/

Perhaps the $37.50 is a combination of several charges

Last edited 8 months ago by Bryan
Bill
Reply to  Bryan
8 months ago

Bryan,

The delivery charge that I stated is one charge and has exceeded the amount Lakefront has indicated on their rate sheet for an average household. Same applies to their average water distribution charges per customer. Understated!

Bryan
Reply to  Bill
8 months ago

Bill,

I think it’s fair game to ask LUI why your getting billed $37.50 when the OEB approved rate indicated on LUI’s rate sheet is $25.57.

John Draper
Reply to  Bryan
8 months ago

My LUSI Invoice for May showed Electricity Delivery as $48.52. I’d also be interested in an explanation. Maybe there are others below $25 so that the average is $25?

Kathleen
Reply to  John Draper
8 months ago

Our May Invoice for Electricity Delivery was $41.45.

I called LUSI months ago because I was also interested in the My Consumption Ranking Graph which compares your household’s Electricity and Water consumption to 15 other households. I wanted to know if the homes were compareable in size? Were they within a 2 block radius? Were they just picked at random? Cudos to the Rep who put me on hold and tried to find out but ultimately, nobody she asked knew the answer.

Rob
Reply to  Bryan
8 months ago

Bryan – it sounds like you believe we should all just be very thankful…as if we have it better than most?! Hydro in Cobourg and across Ontario is outrageously overpriced, and clearly lacks reliable, forward thinking infrastructure. Blips, brown-outs, and full blown outages are far to common in our community – save me the statistics, as the eyeball tests do not lie and the experiences shared here validate the often questionable delivery of residential power. If EV’s are the dream, we would be wise to start building nuclear power plants in the Province and place solar on EVERY Municipal, Provincial and Federal building across the country – we are far from prepared.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Rob
8 months ago

It is questionable that local solar is the solution for ensuring reliable power! We do have cloudy days and it gets dark each night.

Rob
Reply to  Ken Strauss
8 months ago

Perhaps you missed the dozen or so words that preceded my reference to solar…solar is not the solution but considering the Town has a declared a climate crisis, local passive energy seems to align with that local messaging.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Rob
8 months ago

Rob, being “aligned” with a meaningless declaration seems a rather poor rationale for pursuing expensive actions that do not solve any real problem.

Last edited 8 months ago by Ken Strauss
Rob
Reply to  Ken Strauss
8 months ago

Couldn’t agree more…the Municipal declaration of a climate crisis was nothing Liberal fluff. That being said, the Province lacks (in a very significant way) the infrastructure required to support the growing desire to see EV’s in every driveway. Doing nothing isn’t a very good option…

Newbie
Reply to  Rob
8 months ago

I 100% agree with you there Rob. Government signalling they are fixing a problem that is “apocalyptic fluff”.

Nuclear energy is safest and cleanest.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Rob
8 months ago

Nope, SMR may be a partial solution for powering EVs but that ignores the local distribution issues.

Sandpiper
Reply to  Ken Strauss
8 months ago

I believe the local Solar Power is simply a land or roof lease
situation with a Solar Tenant managed by a engineering firm supervising and maintaining the Solar panels etc etc The Towns LUCI
would then be a a Landlord merely collecting the rents

Bryan
Reply to  Sandpiper
8 months ago

Sandpiper,
It’s not likely that LUCI is the “landlord” collecting solar rents. LUCI doesn’t own the properties, the Town does. The Memorial and Heenan arenas, the CCC, and numerous “Northam” buildings. All Town owned.

V13 is the only building that may have a solar installation “managed” by LUCI

Bryan
Reply to  Rob
8 months ago

Rob,

You wrote, “it sounds like you believe we should all just be very thankful…as if we have it better than most?!”

Based on LUI’s performance scorecard and service pricing, LUI seems to be doing a better than average job, for which we should be thankful. Cobourg could do worse…much. I have attended LUI’s last two OEB cost of service rate hearings. The stories told by the professional intervenors put LUI in a favourable light.

That does not mean LUI gets off scot-free. LUI has reliability and infrastucture issues which they committed to addressing at the last OEB cost of service hearing.

You say “save me the statistics as the eyeball tests do not lie”. Have you done “eyeball tests” in other municipalities to determine if Cobourg’s experience is better/worse? What analysis have you done? What are your comparators?

You further wrote “Hydro in Cobourg and across Ontario is outrageously overpriced”

The price of electricity is provincially set by the electricity wholesalers and the OEB. LUI has no say in this.

Further, you wrote “and clearly lacks reliable, forward thinking infrastructure.”
Compared to what?
Please provide some examples of “reliable, forward thinking infrastructure” so that the rest of us can understand the merit of this statement.

Last edited 8 months ago by Bryan
Kathleen
Reply to  Bryan
7 months ago

Join the $25.57 “Eyeball Test” Survey!
The lowest Electrical Distribution charge I’ve been quoted by a fellow Cobourg resident so far is $31.98 on the last Lakefront bill.
She is a Senior Citizen on a fixed income who lives alone in a small townhome.

Bryan
Reply to  Rob
8 months ago

Rob,
I don’t believe the EV dream, especially with major car manufacturers making significant changes to their EV product lines….Ford, Toyota and KIA. Perhaps they know something important in this regard.

Battery technology is rapidly changing and lithium’s life as a battery medium may end in a few years. Batteries based on sodium or iron are rapidly moving from the lab to industrial application.

Bryan
Reply to  Kathleen
8 months ago

Additional info on Cobourg’s “utilities” is available at:
CobourgInternet.ca living in Cobourg A good general reference site about Cobourg

https://www.cobourginternet.ca/living-in-cobourg/utilities-in-cobourg

Cobourg Taxpayers Association Resources
-Holdco facts
-Stormwater Management
-Cobourg Water Regulations Bylaw
-Lakefront Utilities Scorecard
-Ontario Energy Board

https://cobourgtaxpayers.ca/

Last edited 8 months ago by Bryan
Kathleen
Reply to  Kathleen
8 months ago

I forgot to also mention that one of Lakefront’s many outages also caused our Bell Channel Box to blow. An hour on the phone with Bell and they ended up sending us a new one. That was about a month ago.
I’m sure there are many, many stories people could tell.

Matt
Reply to  Heather
8 months ago

Been here going-on 7 years and the frequent brown-outs and full outages have been a constant issue throughout. I’ve had a number of electronic devices damaged from the power rapidly going on and off again multiple times in quick succession and have had to purchase multiple battery back-up units because Lakefront’s electricity delivery is completely unreliable.

I put reliability at a higher degree of importance than the lowest possible monthly bill.