Cornwall Electric is an electricity transmission and distribution utility, licensed by the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) to operate in Cornwall Ontario, Canada. It supplies electricity to over 23,800 customers in the city of Cornwall, the townships of South Glengarry and South Stormont, and a portion of the Mohawk Nation territory of Akwesasne, all located in Ontario Canada. The utility is a wholly owned subsidiary of Fortis Ontario Inc., a division of Fortis Inc. Cornwall Electric is the only municipal electricity distributor in the province of Ontario that does not obtain its electricity from the provincial electricity supplier Ontario Hydro, but instead receives it from Hydro-Quebec via its Beauharnois Generating Station located in Valleyfield Quebec.
near Cornwall. The utility is exempt from the OEB’s rate regulations, and with the ability to negotiate long-term contracts, Cornwall Electric provides its consumers some of the lowest electricity rates in Ontario.
In 1887, the Stormont Electric Light & Power Company was formed to supply electricity to Cornwall and its surrounding area.
Almost a decade later in 1896, the Cornwall Electric Street Railway Company was incorporated after being granted a franchise from the Town of Cornwall (later the City of Cornwall) to operate a streetcar service. The service began on July 1 1896 using four single-truck cars consisting of two open bench cars and two closed cars on a line that was approximately three miles long. A year later in 1997, an additional two cars were purchased to accommodate an increase in ridership. Later, in 1899 the company started a freight service, allowing it to generate additional revenues.
With two electric freight locomotives, the Cornwall freight switching service would move freight cars from the GTR (later Canadian National Railway) yards, and the New York and Ottawa Railway to the Toronto Paper Company, Canadian Coloured Cottons, and other local industries, as well as moving mail from the GTR station to the post office.
In 1898, the Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada became a bondholder of Cornwall Electric Street Railway Company and four years later in 1902, the railway freight service company which was facing financial difficulties with its freight service operations defaulted on its debt to Sun Life, giving it full ownership. Sun Life, now struggling with the railway business purchased in 1905 Stormont Electric Light & Power Company and reorganized both companies as the Cornwall Street Railway Light and Power Company Ltd. which now provided it with power to operate the passenger and freight switching service, the distribution of light, heat, and eventually hot water. The company generated additional revenues by providing its customers with hot water tanks which it powered using its electricity paid for by its customers using a flat rate billing system. The flat rate system was later discontinued and the sale of hot water heaters abandoned.
In 1957, the City of Cornwall formed a committee which was appointed to do what would be its first look at purchasing the utility, and it was not until forty years later in 1977, did city council under the leadership of Mayor Gerald Parisien decide to purchase the company from Sun Life for CA$ 4.8 million. Later that year, the City of Cornwall appointed its first board of directors which consisted of Gerald Parisien, Gord Fairweather, Neil Burke, Fred Bradley, Albert Bergeron, and Doug Fawthrop. A decade later in 1987, Cornwall Street Railway Light and Power Company Ltd., doing business as Cornwall Electric, expanded and acquired the St. Lawrence Power Company also located in Cornwall for CA$13.5 million.
In 1997, and only twenty years after purchasing the utility that some would refer to as the city’s ‘crown jewel’, city council voted 10-1 to accept an offer from Consumer’s Gas Company Ltd. to purchase Cornwall Electric for CA$68 million. Ernie Jackson, former general manager of Cornwall Electric recalled ‘that during the time of the sale, the company was entering a time of high risk, and said it was a good idea to put control of Cornwall Electric into private hands where the focus could be solely on keeping it profitable’.
After paying off the city’s debt, the Progress Fund was created with the remaining proceeds with the proviso that the principal amount of money placed in the fund, never be spent. Originally, the fund was also setup to only fund quality of life projects in the city of Cornwall. Over the years, interest generated by the fund has been used in part for the redevelopment of the Hotel Dieu Hospital, the establishment of a hospice, the building an aquatic centre, and for payment of the mortgage on its sports complex the Benson Centre.
In 2016, after an initial test run in certain areas, the City of Cornwall which still owns the utility poles and lights, contracted crews to convert approximate 5,000 street lamps that were using the older sodium-vapour lamps which typically lasted six years, to the more energy efficient LED bulbs that could last as long as twenty years. The cost of the project was CA$3 million which along with its financing would be recouped from the energy savings in switching to LED coupled with a lower maintenance cost. The city also announced that it would be switching its street traffic lights to LED at a rate of two intersections per year.
In 2017, Hydro One converted the Township of Glengarry to LED bulbs at a cost of CA$226 thousand, yielding a cost savings of sixty-nine percent, and collecting CA$259 thousand in savings in the first three years. In 2020 the township indicated that it wanted Cornwall Electric to furnish its sub-division of Glen Walter with LED bulbs and was considering not paying its electricity bill if Cornwall Electric who owns the lights and poles did not come to the table to discuss the matter.