If you’re new to Canada, then you may find yourself a bit confused by the term “hydro bill” in Canada. Many of my American friends who’ve visited Canada automatically assume that a hydro bill refers to a water bill. I completely understand the logic, but it’s incorrect.
In Canada, the electricity bill is commonly referred to as the hydro bill due to the widespread usage of hydroelectric power throughout Canada.
Below, I’ll explain a bit more about our country’s hydroelectric system and give you a breakdown of your hydro bill.
Still, scratching your head about why it’s called a hydro bill? You’re not the only one – just check out this thread on the r/NoStupidQuestions subreddit. This tends to be particularly confusing to those visiting Canada from the States, where the word “hydro” is commonly associated with water and water services.
The most likely reason behind the confusion is that the United States generates less than 20% of its power using renewable methods like wind, solar, and water. Over 60% of the power in the US comes from fossil fuels.
By contrast, over 60% of Canada’s electricity comes from hydroelectric generation.
Hydroelectric power is simple, reliable, and, most importantly – sustainable. Most hydroelectric generators use turbines, which are spun with water that is run through a dam. As the turbines spin, they generate a massive amount of energy – enough to power entire cities.
Alluding to their power generation methods, many Canadian power providers include the term hydro in their names. Examples include:
- Hydro One
- BC Hydro
- Toronto Hydro
- Hydro Ottawa
- Manitoba Hydro
Because of this, many Canadians simply refer to their power bill as their hydro bill.
Now that you understand the etymology of the term, let’s take a few minutes to look over what a typical hydro bill in Canada looks like, so you can understand your energy statement. Although your hydro bill statement may look slightly different, most hydro bills include all of the same basic information, including:
- The service address
- The statement date
- The meter number
- The name of the hydro provider
- The amount due
- The date the bill needs to be paid by
- A detailed list of charges
The top of your hydro bill should clearly state the service address of the home, apartment unit, or business address where the power is being provided to.
This may be slightly confusing if you live in a duplex or other shared-wall home, so just make sure to look for the exact unit number to make sure that you’re not accidentally paying your neighbour’s bill instead!
Don’t confuse the statement date with your hydro bill’s due date. The statement date merely reflects the date that the bill was printed and mailed. Because of this, the statement date may reflect a date that’s several days before you received the bill in the first place.
If your home is connected to the power grid, then you’ll have a specific meter number assigned to your residence. Before power from the main line reaches your home, it must pass through a meter that measures how many watts or kilowatts of energy you’re using.
Today, most hydro providers can calculate your energy usage digitally. However, some hydro providers may send a crew member out to your residence to manually record the meter amount.
At the top of the page, you should be able to see the name of the electrical service provider clearly. Canada has over 20 major power companies, each serving various provinces, cities, and geographical regions of the country.
This is the most important part. The amount due clearly defines the amount of money that you owe for the one-month period reflected in the statement. If you have a past-due balance or late fees, these will be listed directly under the amount due, along with the total amount that you owe.
A bill wouldn’t be a bill without a clear due date. Most energy bill statements are sent out to customers at least two weeks before the due date, which gives customers time to make payment arrangements.
In Canada, most power companies aren’t allowed to cut off your service unless your payment is at least 14 days late. Most companies give you even more leeway than this (although you may be harassed with phone calls and late fees).
Another important fact to note is that Canadian hydro providers are not allowed to cut off your power during the winter between November 15th and April 30th. No matter how late you are on your bill during this period, you don’t have to worry about freezing to death in the winter.
Still, late fees and penalties may be imposed, so I don’t recommend falling behind on your bill.
Along with listing the amount that you owe, your hydro bill should also outline all of the individual charges associated with your account. This generally includes:
- Electricity charges – the number of kilowatts you used and the charge rate
- Power delivery charges – fees imposed to support the electrical grid delivery system
- Gas charges – some hydro companies also provide natural gas service, which will be included with your electric bill
- Taxes & regulatory charges – Canadians are required to pay GST/HST sales tax on the energy they use, in addition to local taxes and regulatory charges
Some provinces, such as Ontario, offer energy rebates that allow eligible taxpayers to save money by reimbursing them for some taxes and regulatory charges.
Your hydro bill in Canada is more or less the same as an electrical power bill from any other Western country. To avoid late fees and retain your security deposit, I recommend paying your bill on time or setting up an automatic payment withdrawal.
Did you know that you can also invest in utility and power companies? This can be a very stable investment as the country grows and energy needs increase. To learn more, check out my post on the best utilities stocks to invest in next!