MUSKOKA, ON – A local organization is concerned that electricity bills could increase over $80 a month for people in cottage country.

The Federation of Ontario Cottagers Association (FOCA) sent a release out claiming Hydro One will be shuffling its classes, which could affect almost a quarter million people.

The organization’s Executive Director Terry Rees said the main concern is the 154,000 cottagers who will be affected by eliminating the Seasonal Residents class.

“The ones who will be taking the biggest hit are those who don’t live in rural areas permanently,” Rees said. “If you have declared you have a fulltime residence elsewhere in Ontario, in other words, this is a second home, that’s who’s going to get the increase.”

Rees said anyone who permanently lives in those areas is still eligible for the Rural or Remote Electricity Rate Protection. That means while it still costs more to deliver power to their area, the province gives them a break because it is their fulltime home.

Rees said those who get switched to the R1 Class, or high-density user, will actually get a break of about $7 to $9 dollars a month. High-density customers are those who live in highly populated areas which makes it cheaper for Hydro One to service them.

He added the roughly 84,000 cottagers who get bumped to the R2 Class, or low-density users, will see their electricity bills increase 175 per cent.

“It will likely cost them about $1,000 more a year,” Rees said. “A dramatic increase like that is not anyone’s idea of affordability or fairness. “The [Seasonal Resident] class was put in place to treat similar customers in a fair way. We think this is going to put many families in significant financial risk and hardship.”

Reese added the Ontario Energy Board asked Hydro One to put the changes in place last year. He said the company has been taking their time figuring out what the increases will be and who they will be applied to.

The executive director added there will likely be public hearings to gauge what people have to say about it, but that hasn’t been confirmed by Hydro One.

Reese wanted to remind people that this change is on top of the regular rate increases that everyone will see in July.

FOCA also noted that 46 per cent of seasonal customers uses less than 150 kWh per month on average over the year.

The MyMuskokaNow.com newsroom has been in contact with Hydro One, but officials were unable to reply at the time of publication.