Despite the increase in the cost of living and the rapid rise in interest rates, fewer Quebec households than before the pandemic are having difficulty paying their electricity bills.
The number of residential customers who had to come to an agreement with Hydro-Québec to avoid being disconnected is lower than it was before the pandemic, according to data provided by the state company.
At the end of 2023, 178,000 residential subscribers had reached an agreement with their electricity supplier to stagger their payments, compared to 219,000 in 2019, before the pandemic.
During the health crisis, that is, between 2020 and 2021, the number of payment agreements decreased, due to the special measures taken by Hydro-Québec to mitigate the impact of the anticipated crisis on its customers. Collection activities were suspended from March 2020 to fall 2021, and the number of payment agreements decreased.
Since Hydro-Québec resumed its normal practices for recovering amounts owed to it, the number of customers in difficulty has increased, but it has not returned to pre-pandemic levels.
Likewise, service interruptions that were suspended during the pandemic have resumed, but the number remains lower than before the pandemic.
In 2019, 55,000 Hydro-Québec customers were disconnected from the network because they had not paid their bills. In 2022, there were 32,000 residential service outages. The number of residential subscribers is just over four million.
Hydro-Québec does not interpret this data, said its spokesperson, Cendrix Bouchard.
However, we know that the purchasing power of Quebec households improved between 2019 and 2023, despite widespread price increases. According to a study by the Chair in Taxation and Public Finance at the University of Sherbrooke, government assistance in various forms as well as the tax cut from which Quebecers benefited in 2023 have contributed to the increase in disposable income. consumers.
Hydro-Québec’s losses attributable to its subscribers’ payment defaults are also decreasing. After peaking at 76 million in 2019, the total debts that had to be written off by the Crown corporation declined to 52 million in 2022. Data for 2023 is not available.
At the start of the pandemic, the state-owned company expected to lose a lot of money. It had doubled its provisions for bad debts, to 180 million for the year 2020.
Year after year, Hydro-Québec establishes provisions for losses of around 90 million, an amount that has never been reached.