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OPUC merger report delayed

Investigation into hydro amalgamation likely pushed to 2017

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

Oshawa city council and local residents may have to wait a little longer to see the final outcome of their utility’s investigation into a possible merger.

In April, the Oshawa Power and Utilities Corporation (OPUC) entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Veridian Corporation and the Whitby Hydro Electric Company to start the process of looking into merging the companies together.

That MOU document states that all parties will work to enter into any merger agreement by the end of 2016. However, according to OPUC CEO Ivanno Labricciosa, that may be pushed to the new year.

“We’re still working away on the documents, we’re in the final phases of the evaluation,” he says.

Those documents are what will eventually be presented to Oshawa city council and will lay out the results of the eight-month-plus investigation into the possible merger. Labricciosa says the majority of the time has been spent on risk assessments and trying to forecast potential issues in the future.

He would not share any of the financial results and potential impact on Oshawa’s rates.

“What we’re trying to do is just make sure, as we look into the future that…we understand how rates will be impacted, but put all the mechanisms in place to keep Oshawa and Veridian and Whitby ratepayers whole and be fair to everybody who is involved in the merger,” Labricciosa says. “Trying to predict out into the future is hard, but in order to be transparent, we’re trying to be as wholesome and fulsome in terms of our review and try to predict out all the different scenarios that can come up.”

Currently, Oshawa residents have the lowest rates of the three companies. The OPUC serves more than 57,000 homes, the second largest of the group behind Veridian, which powers more than 119,000 customers. Whitby Hydro provides service to approximately 41,500 homes.

Also in question is the potential impact on the dividend the city receives annually from the OPUC, which currently sits at approximately $1.7 million.

Labcricciosas says nothing has been finalized yet.

“We’ve got a bunch of scenarios that we’ve laid out and really haven’t tidied it up nice enough to basically be certain,” he says.

Since the process began in April, the OPUC held one public information session to try and inform residents and stakeholders about the process. Labricciosa says there will be more opportunities for the public to hear from the utility in the future.

For now, though, the company is focused on trying to cover all of its bases and look at not only rates, but all the factors involved with merging the three companies into one.

“We’re trying to make sure we understand all the risks and identify them and see what kind of impact and how much give-room we have in case there are any errors or oversight on risk assessment,” Labricciosa says.

As the Dec. 31 deadline approaches, the utility CEO notes that if he were a “gambling man” he’d look to the new year for the final report, but the company is still focused on the original timeline.

“We’re still trying to meet that deadline if we can. So we haven’t lost that objective.”