If you own or operate a farm, here's important information about electricity rates. You'll also find helpful advice on how to recognize stray voltage on your farm, together with guidance on what you can do if you suspect it's affecting your livestock.
Regulated Price Plan (RPP)
Residential customers, small businesses, farm customers and other low-volume users of electricity (designated consumers) can receive their electricity through the Regulated Price Plan, which offers rates set by the Ontario Energy Board (OEB). You are automatically part of this plan unless you choose to purchase your electricity from an electricity retailer.
Ontario Electricity Rebate
On November 1, 2019, the Government of Ontario introduced a rebate on electricity costs for residential, farm, and many small business consumers.
This rebate – known as the Ontario Electricity Rebate (OER) – replaced the bill reductions that eligible consumers were previously receiving. These were the 8% Provincial Rebate, which was equal to the provincial portion of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), as well as a bill reduction that was built into the price of electricity and wasn’t visible to consumers.
The OER is intended to allow consumers to see the full value of the rebate they’re receiving. The OER reduces the pre-HST costs on customers’ bills by 18.9%.
The rebate appears on bills that reflect services received after November 1, 2019. The rebate does not have an expiry date.
Most farm customers are eligible to receive the Ontario Electricity Rebate on their electricity bill. Eligibility to receive the rebate is defined under the Ontario Rebate for Electricity Consumers Act, 2016.
Farm customers may be asked by Hydro Ottawa to complete a form confirming that they meet one or more of the criteria for rebate eligibility.
Farm Stray Voltage
What is Farm Stray Voltage?
Electrical systems, both farm systems and the distribution systems of local utilities, are grounded to the earth to ensure safety and reliability. Inevitably, some current flows through the earth at each point where the electrical system is grounded and a small voltage develops. This voltage is called neutral-to-earth voltage (NEV).
Stray or "tingle" voltage occurs when equipment that is not supposed to be energized picks up voltage from nearby wires or equipment. It can be found at low levels between two contact points where electricity is grounded. Most of the time, stray voltage is not a problem because the levels are generally not felt by humans.
However, stray voltage may affect livestock animals on farms more frequently because of electrically grounded equipment, such as metal stabling, feeders, milk pipelines or wet concrete floors. If an animal touches two contact points with different voltage levels, a small electric current will pass through the animal. Some livestock animals, particularly cows, are so sensitive to these currents that they are bothered by small levels that people would not feel.
The reported symptoms of stray voltage in dairy cows include lowered milk production, reduced water or feed intake and nervous or aggressive behaviour. These same symptoms can be also caused by disease, poor nutrition, unsanitary conditions or milking machine defects.
What causes stray voltage?
Stray voltage can originate from sources both on the farm and off the farm:
- Off-farm sources include an electrical distribution system, where some voltage will always exist between the neutral ground system and the earth and the farm's electric system. The level of this neutral-to-earth voltage may change on a daily or seasonal basis, depending on amount of electricity loaded into the system, environmental conditions and other factors.
- On-farm sources include poor or faulty wiring, unbalanced farm system loading, improper grounding, and defective equipment. Voltages from telephone lines or gas pipelines are other possible sources.
For safety reasons, Hydro Ottawa's neutral system is connected to a farm's grounding system. Grounding is provided to protect people and animals from shocks.
How are utility contributions to farm stray voltage addressed?
If stray voltage is suspected, the only way to determine the cause is to have your farm tested by a trained expert.
If a utility is found responsible for contributing to farm stray voltage, the utility must take steps to lower its contribution to acceptable levels. The particular solution will depend on the utility's equipment servicing the farm, the extent of the problem and other technical factors.
Common ways of addressing utility contributions to farm stray voltage include installing filtering equipment at the service to the property and installing additional grounding equipment to the utility's neutral conductors.
What to do if you suspect Stray Voltage problems on your farm?
If you suspect stray voltage problems at your farm, you should first review Hydro Ottawa's Farm Stray Voltage Customer Response Procedure. If after reviewing this information, you would like Hydro Ottawa to investigate if we are contributing to stray voltage problems at your farm, please call us at 613-738-6400.
In addition to your name, address, mailing address and day-time phone number, we will need information about why you suspect stray voltage from Hydro Ottawa’s system may be affecting your farm operations. This information includes the types of animals potentially affected by stray voltage, changes in animal behaviours and any other evidence. Within five business days of your call, you will be contacted by one of our technicians to discuss your concerns and if warranted, to schedule an investigation to see if our system is contributing to stray voltage on your farm.
For further information on stray voltages at livestock farms, visit the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) website.