‘Energy literacy’ needs to increase: Leclair

Courtney Symons
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As Rosemarie Leclair returned to her hometown of Ottawa last night, she soaked in the sight of the city all lit up. The former president and CEO of Hydro Ottawa said she knows the work it takes to ensure electricity runs to each household and business in Ottawa.

Rosemarie Leclair, head of the Ontario Energy Board. (Image supplied)

When she became head of the Ontario Energy Board in 2011, Ms. Leclair moved to Toronto after 25 years of working in various roles in Ottawa. It was lessons learned while working here that led to her restructuring the provincial energy regulator’s framework, she said.

During her time with Hydro Ottawa, Ms. Leclair helped increase customer satisfaction by 13 per cent. When she left, the number of consumers who said they were satisfied with service from Hydro Ottawa was up to 89 per cent.

The importance of securing consumer confidence has stayed with her throughout her time with the OEB, she said.

But as technology and customer expectations evolve, it’s important for Ontario utilities to help increase energy literacy – allowing consumers to break down their bills and understand the balance between prices of commodities and prices of the maintenance and service necessary to deliver them.

Although Ms. Leclair said many consumers are uninterested in understanding their bills, it’s in their best interest to learn to.

“When the lights go out, or the furnace stops running, or the bottom line is different from the month before … Now, they’re interested,” she said.

To increase energy literacy, the OEB is revamping its consumer outreach website and feedback forms after a year of consulting with Ontario residents, Ms. Leclair said. The new framework will better align the interests of the energy sector with the interests of consumers, she said.

The Ontario Energy Board regulates the 77 regional and general companies such as Hydro Ottawa and Hydro One that provide gas to the 4.8 million households and businesses in Ontario.

Those companies owned $27 billion in assets in 2011, and invest $3 billion every year in network infrastructure, she said.

Ms. Leclair spoke at Eggs n’ Icons on Friday morning, a breakfast series co-hosted by OBJ and the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce.

In closing, Ms. Leclair quoted English philosopher Francis Bacon: “Knowledge is power.”

“I think that knowledge about power is one of the most important tools we can provide today,” she said.

During her tenure at Hydro Ottawa, Ms. Leclair oversaw the $63-million sale of the energy provider’s fibre optic network arm, Telecom Ottawa, to Atria Networks in 2008. She led the company to produce sizable dividends for the City of Ottawa – the utility’s sole shareholder – over several years.

Critics, however, argued those dividends were proof ratepayers were being overcharged. The financial decisions of the public utility were questioned on several occasions, such as when it invested $1.5 million in a fledgling streetlight company that ultimately went bust. The provincial NDP also criticized Hydro Ottawa for spending $30,000 on box seats at NHL games.

Shortly after her departure from Hydro Ottawa, Ms. Leclair’s new employer, the Ontario Energy Board, told the local utility to rein in spending.

Prior to her post at Hydro Ottawa, Ms. Leclair served in several positions at the City of Ottawa, including a stint as deputy city manager of public works and services.

Organizations: Ontario Energy Board, Hydro One, Ottawa Chamber of Commerce NHL

Geographic location: Ottawa, Ontario, Toronto

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