TORONTO - The Low-Income Energy Network (LIEN) is calling for government action to ensure low-income people can maintain access to basic energy needs. The electricity price and distribution rate increases announced by the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) on April 12th take effect today. Yet, there is no permanent rate assistance program in place for Ontario's low-income consumers who are vulnerable to increases in shelter and utility costs and may be forced to make difficult choices between heating, eating and paying the rent.
Low-income rate assistance is a crucial component of LIEN's recommended provincial strategy for reducing energy consumption and costs for low-income consumers. LIEN's proposal for an Ontario Home Energy Affordability Program has been filed at the OEB and is available here. The proposal was developed for LIEN by Roger Colton, a U.S. expert on low-income energy issues, and has five major components: rate affordability, arrears management, crisis intervention, conservation and demand management, and consumer protections. It advocates that Ontario's low-income consumers should not be paying more than 6% of their total household income on energy.
"The government has recognized that low-income consumers are at risk with its announcement of a one-time payment of up to $120 to assist with rising electricity costs, and the doubling of the provincial Emergency Energy Fund," says Zee Bhanji, Coordinator of LIEN. "While these initiatives are welcome, they are short-term, reactive fixes. What's required is a long-term, proactive solution - and we hope the Ontario Home Energy Affordability Program proposal will help keep the lights on for low-income households in the province."