An Ottawa man is fighting for help with hydro costs for people who are housebound like him.

58-year-old Rick Harrison is a quadriplegic who needs critical equipment that runs all day, including during peak hours. As many of us know, Hydro is most expensive in the middle of the day.

No one is more aware of that than Rick Harrison and his wife, who can't shut off power during the day without negatively affecting Rick's life. Every minute of every day, Rick Harrison relies on electricity to keep him in his home, to power his electric wheelchair, his electric bed, his electric mattress, even lift him in and out of bed.  For several hours during peak electricity times, he also has help coming into his home to feed him and attend to his needs.

"(These electrical devices) are on from 4 pm on until about 10:30 the next morning when he's taken out of bed and brought into the living room,” says his wife Suzy Harrison.

Harrison has been a quadriplegic for 14 years as a result of a viral infection that he believes he got from an inmate when he worked as a corrections officer. All those years, his wife has struggled to care for him in the family home.  She works outside the house and consequently doesn't qualify for low-income subsidies.

“The costs involved in keeping him home for the government are far less than it would be if we be if we put him in a chronic care hospital which is where he would need to go,” says Harrison.

But caring for him at home is costly, especially since the introduction of Smart Meters

According to Hydro Ottawa, the average household uses 800 kilowatt hours a month of electricity. The Harrisons use nearly that, about 1500 kWh.  That's about $200 a month.

Hydro Ottawa says it can't reduce those peak rates.

"Hydro Ottawa doesn't have any discretion when it comes to applying the rates,” says spokesperson Rebecca Hickey, “whether it's for low income or for folks who need medical assistance in their homes.

“The provincial government needs to step in,” says Rick Harrison, “and give a better rate.”

The Harrisons say Ontario's premier had promised that help five years ago. In an email dated September 20, 2007, Dalton McGuinty wrote, “We will work with Mr. Harrison to resolve his situation.  As we move forward with our plans to encourage energy conservation, we have to take into account the circumstances that Mr. Harrison and others like him face every day.”

But the Harrisons say they’ve heard nothing since then. “Nothing, nothing out there that we know of.”

The provincial government maintains there are already several cost savings measures in place, including the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit. But the Energy Minister says perhaps more can be done. In a statement, Bob Chiarelli says he understands the Harrisons concerns "and will work with my colleagues in government, including the Ministry of Health, to look into this issue further."

The Harrisons are counting on that for them and others who are housebound.

Suzy Harrison has been told, more than once that the solution to their financial dilemma is to divorce Rick so that he'd be considered low-income. But after more than 30 years of marriage, she's says that is not going to happen.

Here's a breakdown from Hydro Ottawa of Time of Use rates:

Summer (May 1, 2013 - Oct 31, 2013)

Period Price/kWh Time
6.70¢ 12:00 AM-07:00 AM, 07:00 PM-12:00 AM
10.40¢ 07:00 AM-11:00 AM, 05:00 PM-07:00 PM
12.40¢ 11:00 AM-05:00 PM


Period Price/kWh Time
6.70¢ All Day