On Tuesday at 2:00 pm, Cobourg Council had a special meeting to hear a report from Holdco and its subsidiaries (Lakefront Utilities Inc – LUI – and Lakefront Services Inc – LUSI) on how they are doing. The new chair of Holdco, David Tsubouchi, spoke strongly about the need for better governance and is putting procedures in place to make sure that happens. This was the only thing that needed significant fixing – all other measurements and performance factors were positive and councillors asked few questions. LUI chair Gil Brocanier reported that reliability is good and getting better (more below) and that businesses want reliability and are attracted to Cobourg by reliable electricity. Gil said that only 25% of a residential bill is actually for LUSI services (Distribution of electricity – see page 23 of the full presentation) – he said that their costs are low and rates are low.
The report was no doubt full of useful information but I had a hard time staying awake. But let me report on a few highlights.
LUSI looks after water, the Fibre Optic service to Town departments, some HR services and a solar panel joint venture. Details were only provided for water rates: in 2022, the average residential service will use 160 cubic meters of water per year and Cobourg charges $440 for that. By comparison Port Hope charges $790 for that amount (see page 15 of the full presentation in Resources below). Unlike electricity which is managed by LUI, water rates are not regulated.
There was no detailed report on other LUSI activities.
LUI looks after electricity and Gil (and the printed report) make a major point about how OM & A is low. You would be forgiven for not knowing what that is – nowhere did I see the acronym explained. I did a Google search and found that it stands for Operating, Maintenance and Administration – seems like mostly personnel costs.
Gil talked about reliability and how they are using technology to improve things. A recent personal experience did not leave me with a good impression:
Last Friday, there was a failure in the South end of Cobourg – 995 commercial and Residential customers (including my place) were without power from 5:00 pm. Since I’m a techie, I immediately used the “Lakefront Utilities” App and reported the outage. I noted that the App said “no outages”. I received an email acknowledgement but the app continued to say “no outages” all the time when there obviously was a continuing outage. There was no storm (or even wind) at the time and the outage was eventually blamed on a fallen tree branch. It took about 1 ½ hours to fix and the only updates I could get were via Twitter. Better than nothing but what happened to the wonderful app technology? Technology is good but needs updates. Gil talked about their “aggressive tree trimming program” – seems it was not aggressive enough. Gil said that LUI’s “index of reliability” was one of the best in the industry.
Looking to the future, LUI is aware of the move to Electric vehicles and in fact plans to convert all its fleet to Electric by 2035 and plans to increase capacity to cope with all the EV chargers.
The only significant question by a Councillor was by Emily Chorley who asked if it’s still planned to put a new water Tower at the CCC for zone 1. (Yes).
One key financial number is the benefit to Cobourg: $21.7M from 2001 to 2021. No further breakdown by year was provided. Neither was there any indication of a trend.