Dan Rankin, for the Gazette
For the third consecutive year, the provincial regulator of Ontario’s 75 electricity distributors has named Festival Hydro to its list of the top 10 most efficient utilities in the province.
The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) conducts an annual study of local distribution companies (LDCs) and ranks them based on their performance over the past 10 years in terms of overall efficiency. The study evaluates smaller LDCs such as Festival Hydro, which serves about 20,000 customers around Stratford, Brussels, Dashwood, Hensall, St. Marys, Seaforth and Zurich, alongside utilities with customers numbering in the hundreds of thousands.
Festival Hydro chief operating officer Jac Vanderbaan said it was “nice to be recognized for all the hard work" Festival Hydro employees have done, adding it proves that bigger is not always better.
“We’re always conscious, in whatever we’re doing, that what we’re doing needs to add real value for our customers,” he said.
Contributing to Festival Hydro’s high efficiency rating are technological innovations such as smart meters and distribution automation, Vanderbaan said.
“For the distribution automation, it’s a way we were able to significantly improve reliability to the city of Stratford without a lot of capital costs,” he said. “We were able to install a series of these smart switches that greatly improve reliability with a marginal cost.”
Smart meters also help reduce customer costs, he said.
“With the smart meters we’ve been able to reduce some of our costs for meter reading,” he said. “It’s also helped to reduce customer costs, because they can now manage when they’re using electricity, and use as much as they can during off-peak times and as little as they have to during peak times. That’s definitely helping them.”
Partnering with other utilities and sharing distribution standards and billing systems is another way Festival Hydro has worked to improve efficiency, he added.
“We also work very closely with the City of Stratford,” he said. “We have a contract with them to do the water and sewer billing on the same bill, which saves both of us money.”
In a recent blog post on StratfordSmartCity.ca, Vanderbaan wrote that it’s no surprise Festival Hydro gets mentioned in conversations about the city’s Intelligent Community bid.
“Would you expect anything less from the LDC that is owned by the City of Stratford – a Top 7 Intelligent Community for three years in a row?”