04/02/2015 04:10 EDT | Updated 06/02/2015 05:59 EDT

Ontario Energy Board changes mean electricity bills rise for 20% of customers

TORONTO - The Ontario Energy Board is changing distribution charges on electricity bills, which will mean $5 monthly increases for about 20 per cent of customers and $5 monthly decreases for another 20 per cent.

The OEB says the change to a fixed-rate distribution charge for electricity will not result in a "significant change" in hydro bills for about 60 per cent of customers.

However, the change will be implemented over a four-year period, so any changes in electricity bills will be very gradual.

Distribution costs are fixed regardless of how much electricity is used, so people who use a lot of electricity will see a decrease in distribution charges but people who use very little power will see their hydro bills increase.

The OEB says people who have electric heat, many of whom are low-income, will benefit from the change.

Distribution rates, which are designed to recover the costs for the poles, wires, meters, transformer stations that deliver electricity to homes and businesses, make up about 20-to-25 per cent of a residential customer's total electricity bill.

The energy board, which regulates electricity prices, says moving to a fixed rate distribution charge will be revenue neutral for local utilities.