Hydro-Quebec confirms $500 million credit for customers, as well as a rate freeze starting April 1

Hydro Quebec power lines are shown on Oct. 29, 2009 in Levis Que. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot)

Hydro-Quebec confirmed Monday that there will be a rate freeze starting April 1, which will lead to a credit of about $500 million for customers.

The public utility company explains the decision was made after the Quebec government adopted a bill Saturday to simplify the electricity rate setting process.

The Crown Corporation states the $500 million comes from variance accounts required under the old tariff system.

The money will be distributed to customers who had a Hydro-Quebec subscription in 2018 and 2019.

Hydro-Quebec adds the final balance will be known by January and customers should expect to see a credit on their following bill.

The rebate amount each customer will receive will be based on electricity consumption between Jan. 1, 2018 and Dec. 31, 2019.

The corporation estimates each customer should receive about $60.

People who are no longer Hydro-Quebec customers, but who had a subscription in 2018 and/or 2019 will receive their credit in the form of a cheque that will be issued sometime in 2020.

Those people will have to contact Hydro-Quebec to confirm their current address.

Further Hydro-Quebec price increases will be limited to the inflation rate, the agency said. 

However, before the CAQ legislated the rate freeze, Hydro-Quebec had to answer to an oversight board before approving rate hikes. Now, they won't have to. 

Christian Corbeil, chief executive of Option Consommateur said it was the equivalent of losing a guard dog. Rates could be higher in five years than they would have been had the CAQ not intervened, he said. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 9, 2019.

With files from CTV Montreal's Stephane Giroux.