(Toronto) The Low Income Energy Network (LIEN) has been looking forward to the expansion of the OPA's low-income conservation programs beyond the social housing sector and welcomed today's launch by the Ontario Power Authority (OPA)/Conservation Bureau of its low-income Energy Efficiency Assistance for Housing pilot program. Under the pilot, a package of energy conservation and efficiency measures designed to reduce electricity consumption will be provided to up to 2,500 low-income households in the homes they own or rent. Community and Social Services Minister Madeleine Meilleur and Peter Love, the province's Chief Energy Conservation Officer, made the announcement today at Vanier Community Services Centre in Ottawa.
"Low-income consumers are hit hardest by rising energy costs, and they are the least able to make up-front investments in energy efficiency retrofits to their homes or to pay for the replacement of energy inefficient appliances such as refrigerators," said Sarah Blackstock, research/policy analyst with the Income Security Advocacy Centre. "We're pleased that this pilot contains the type of extended conservation measures LIEN has been recommending to make a real impact on lowering electricity bills for vulnerable households that struggle to meet the costs of basic necessities."
Only one electricity local distribution company (LDC) in the province has offered a similar program for about 100 low-income households (homeowners and renters) as part of their Conservation & Demand Management Plan, and there is no longer a federally-funded national low-income energy efficiency program in place that could be accessed by Ontarians in need. LIEN anticipates that the OPA's pilot will lay the groundwork for a permanent, ongoing program that will be available and delivered in all communities across the province to eligible low-income households.
"Inability to pay for energy costs is a leading cause of homelessness in Ontario," said Michael Shapcott, a public policy Fellow in Residence with The Wellesley Institute and a member of the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee. "In hand with aggressive energy conservation and education programs to address the disproportionate impact of utility costs on low-income households, LIEN is also recommending the implementation of our proposal for an Ontario Home Energy Affordability Program under which low-income consumers would not pay more than 6% of their total household income on energy." LIEN will continue to monitor and participate in development of low-income energy conservation programs assisting Ontario's vulnerable energy consumers to ensure that they are not left on the sidelines as Ontario develops a robust conservation culture.