How will the new business be governed?
A Board of Directors, based on proportional representation of all shareholders will provide governance and oversight of the new company.
Who is required to approve this proposal?
The proposal being considered requires the approval of all shareholders, including the City Councils in Hamilton and St. Catharines. The company is currently developing the proposal which will demonstrate value to customers by reducing upward pressure on rates as well as provide benefits to shareholders. Once this is complete, each Council will be in a position to deliberate on the merits.
Any merger or acquisition of utilities requires Ontario Energy Board approval, as does our proposal. The Ontario Energy Board follows a formal process for review and approval. It also has prescribed rules for ensuring that efficiency savings are passed on to customers in the form of lower future rates.
Is the business being sold or will the municipality continue to own it?
The transaction being considered is a merger of Horizon Utilities with other municipal utilities. The City of Hamilton will continue to be an owner of the new merged company.
Will the new utility still handle water billing on behalf of the City of Hamilton?
Yes. Nothing changes in respect of this.
Will Hydro One customers in Hamilton ever be served by the same utility?
The government’s announcements on Hydro One Networks (Ontario’s primarily rural utility) is a welcome step in the right direction. The more commercial business focus of Hydro One Networks and the greater size of our new merged municipal utility will make it easier to address service boundary issues in Hamilton. Hydro One Brampton is a separate and distinct company from Hydro One Networks. It is the former Brampton municipal utility and has been run with a municipal focus like Horizon Utilities.
Will Horizon customers be given an opportunity to comment on the merger?
Horizon Utilities will hold Open Houses in Hamilton and St. Catharines where customers and other stakeholders can provide their input.
The public will be notified in advance as to when and where these events will be held. In addition, the merger must be approved by the City Council, where it will be reviewed by our elected officials.
Finally, the proposal being considered will also require Ontario Energy Board approval. The Ontario Energy Board has a formal process for review and approval that also includes public input.
Is this going to affect how customers pay their bill?
Customers will continue to pay their electricity bill in the same manner as they always have.
What will happen to customer rates?
Significant synergies exist that will have a favourable impact on future customer rates. Any change in rates would occur only through the approval of the Ontario Energy Board. Furthermore, every community will benefit equally in the reduction of rates.
Will service be affected because it will now be this single, large company?
Each merging utility will continue to have its own local operations maintained and its unique requirements recognized. The new merged company will continue to maintain or improve service reliability and customer service in the future.
Horizon Utilities has experience in this regard. Horizon Utilities is a product of two significant mergers: a) merger of five utilities in Hamilton in 2000; and b) merger of Hamilton and St. Catharines in 2005. In fact, in both cases Horizon Utilities was able to improve customer service by having greater financial capabilities to invest in customer service oriented technologies and tools to improve the customer experience.
Where is my emergency electricity service coming from? Will I have to wait for an emergency crew to come from another city? How long is that going to take?
Our emergency response times will not change. Local delivery of services will continue to be necessary in the new merged company. The same employees from the same service locations will be there to assist with the service requirements.
The new utility will be committed to maintaining and enhancing customer service in all of our locations.
Will there be service centres in Hamilton?
The existing service centres will continue to exist post-merger.
Are you merging in order to make more profit?
The utilities are considering joining together because it is in the best interest of all their customers and shareholders.
Horizon has a proven track record with regard to lowering costs for our customers through mergers. Even though utilities are responsible for only approximately 20 to 25 per cent of a customer's total bill, a combined entity can achieve even further efficiencies and help to keep future rates down on this portion of the bill. And that’s exactly what Horizon did through our previous mergers.
Is Horizon in financial trouble? Why do you have to join with other utilities?
Horizon Utilities, Enersource, Hydro One Brampton and PowerStream are four of the leading and most well-established electricity distribution companies in Ontario. All are innovative, forward thinking and community focused.
As leading companies, they recognize that further efficiencies must be achieved in order to reduce the upward pressure on local electricity distribution rates paid by our respective customers.
By giving consideration to joining together with other utilities, we can achieve even further efficiencies through reduction of duplication and economies of scale.