News & Events

Cooling government enthusiasm for low-income energy consumers' programs?

For immediate release:                                                          May 25, 2010

(Toronto)The Low-Income Energy Network (LIEN) is calling for a permanent energy rate affordability program for Ontario's poorest households as members from across the province gather tomorrow for their annual conference.

"Low-income consumers have been waiting too long for an energy poverty solution. They do not have the resources to reduce their energy use or meet their basic energy needs, including healthy home temperatures during dangerously hot summer days and freezing winter nights," said Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director of the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA).  "We urge the Energy Minister to build on the significant progress made at the OEB's LEAP Conservation Working Group and put into place a province-wide multi-fuel low-income conservation program."  

In September 2009 the Minister of Energy and Infrastructure advised the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) that the provincial government was developing a new integrated program for low-income energy consumers.  The OEB was planning to move forward with new support programs under their Low-Income Energy Program (LEAP) initiative by early 2010, but put those plans on hold pending expected ministerial direction.  

As energy costs continue to rise and looming summer temperatures threaten to impact the health of people who cannot afford to escape the heat, LIEN's members are concerned that low-income consumers are still waiting for the sustainable supports needed to help manage their utility bills and pay for other basic essentials such as rent, food, transportation and medicine.

"The need for an effective, adequately funded emergency energy assistance program is critical to avoid homelessness for vulnerable households facing short-term financial crises", said Jennifer Lopinski, the Emergency Home Energy program administrator with A Place Called Home in the Municipality of Kawartha Lakes.  "Many existing low-income financial assistance programs are not available province-wide and funds are often insufficient to meet the need."

With the province now taking the lead on developing an integrated low-income program, LIEN asks that the Energy Minister seriously review the need to include a low-income energy rate affordability program as an important component of a comprehensive approach to reducing energy poverty in Ontario.   

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For further information:
Zee Bhanji, LIEN Coordinator
416-597-5855 ext. 5167
www.lowincomeenergy.ca
Low-income energy consumers will be available for comment.

Register now for the 2010 LIEN annual conference

Registration is now open for the LIEN annual conference, "Forging Ahead: Shaping Ontario's Low-Income Energy Future".

Draft Agenda

Date: Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Time: 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Location: Thomas Lounge, Oakham House, 63 Gould Street

There is no registration fee for the conference and lunch will be provided, but we ask that you register as soon as possible so that we can order the right amount of food. Space is limited. Preference will be given to those who register by May 18, 2010.

Fill in the online registration form below:

Directions: Oakham House is located on the southwest corner of Church Street and Gould Street. It is a 2 minute walk east of Yonge Street, just north of the Dundas subway station.

In keeping with the theme of the conference, if feasible, we encourage the use of public transit or car pooling. There are several paid public parking lots also nearby.

LIEN Currents, Spring 2010 issue

LIEN currents - Spring 2010 issue

Mark your calendar - upcoming LIEN conference!

The LIEN annual conference will be held on Wednesday, May 26, 2010 from 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. at the Oakham House, Ryerson University, Toronto.

This exciting (and free) event is a gathering for anti-poverty, affordable housing and environmental advocates to share experiences and engage in an action agenda on low-income energy issues.

More information, including registration and agenda, to come within the next few weeks.

OEB LEAP (Low-Income Energy Assistance Program) initiative halted!

The Minister of Energy and Infrastructure is in the process of developing a province-wide integrated program for low-income energy consumers. As a result, the Minister has requested that the OEB not proceed with the LEAP implementation in advance of a ministerial direction. The Minister further indicated that the MEI, in the development of its program, would build upon the work the OEB has undertaken to date.

For more information:

OEB letter: http://www.oeb.gov.on.ca/OEB/_Documents/EB-2008-0150/letter_LowIncome_NextSteps_20090928.pdf

MEI letter: http://www.oeb.gov.on.ca/OEB/_Documents/EB-2008-0150/letter_Ministry_20090908.pdf

There has Never Been a Better Time Not to Buy a Reactor

For immediate release                                        June 3, 2009

Conditions have changed and the McGuinty government should support its own Green Energy Act by deciding against buying new nuclear reactors this summer, say thirteen prominent environmental organizations in an open letter to the Premier.

The groups say there has never been a better time not to buy a nuclear reactor, and they urge the Premier to forgo spending billions on new nuclear and instead put his Green Energy Act to work by replacing the aging Pickering B nuclear station with green energy.

"Nuclear costs are increasing, electricity demand is falling and the province has put in place the conditions for green power to play an increased role in Ontario's electricity sector," said Cherise Burda, Policy Director for the Pembina Institute. "It's a perfect storm in favour of green power rather than nuclear."

The groups say that the Premier should delay the decision to buy new reactors until the province's plan for electricity is reviewed again in three years. Groups signing the letter include the Canadian Environmental Law Association, Council of Canadians, Ecojustice, Environmental Defence, Great Lakes United, Greenpeace, Low-Income Energy Network, Ontario Clean Air Alliance, Ontario Sustainable Energy Association, Pembina Institute, Sierra Club Ontario, Toronto Environmental Alliance and WWF-Canada.

"Investments in green energy and nuclear power are competing for limited space on the electricity grid of the future," added Keith Stewart, Climate Change Campaign Manager for WWF-Canada. "The Green Energy Act points us toward a sustainable energy future, but to get there we now need to make more space for green power within the province's electricity plan."

The province's current electricity plan caps the long-term development of new renewable power by reserving at least 50 per cent of the electricity grid for nuclear generation. For the Green Energy Act to be successful, say the groups, the government must remove the long-term cap on green power development.

The next and best opportunity to do this would be a decision to replace the Pickering B nuclear station with green energy when it reaches the end of its operational life beginning in 2013. The government is expected to decide Pickering B's fate later this summer.

"New reactors are neither needed nor economical today. What is needed, however, is more space on the electricity grid for Green Energy Act to be put to work. Committing to replace Pickering with green power is the next positive step the government must take toward expanding green energy and jobs," said Shawn-Patrick Stensil, Energy and Climate Campaigner for Greenpeace.

The groups highlighted the assumptions used by the Ontario Power Authority in 2005 to limit green energy and plan for the expansion of nuclear generation that are no longer valid in 2009. The expansion of nuclear power should be reconsidered because:

  • Electricity demand has continued to fall since 2005, eliminating the need for additional reactors.
  • Nuclear costs are more than double what they were estimated to be in 2005 and nuclear vendors are unwilling to assume the risks of cost over-runs.
  • The Independent Electricity System Operator has warned that excess and inflexible nuclear supply is a threat to system stability.
  • The passage of the Green Energy Act creates the conditions for green power to thrive if green power is provided additional space on the electricity grid.

Last September, Minister Smitherman directed the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) to revise its targets for green power and conservation. The OPA is expected to submit its revised plan later this summer, after assessing the impact of the Green Energy Act.

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Editors note: The letter to Premier McGuinty and a related backgrounder are available at www.renewableisdoable.ca

For more information, contact:

Cherise Burda, Ontario Policy Director, Pembina Institute: (416) 824-0256

Keith Stewart, Climate Change Campaign Manager, WWF-Canada: (416) 985-5936

Shawn-Patrick Stensil, Energy and Climate Change Campaigner, Greenpeace-Canada: (416) 884-7053

Jack Gibbons, Chair, Ontario Clean Air Alliance: (416) 926-1907 ext. 240

Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director, Canadian Environmental Law Association: (416) 960-2284 ext. 219

Hugh Wilkins, Coordinating Lawyer, Ecojustice Canada: (416) 368-7533 ext. 34

Dan McDermott, Sierra Club Ontario: (416) 960-9606 Related Information:

Give Green Energy Time to Grow

Letter to The Honourable Dalton McGuinty
June 3, 2009 » 657_GEA.pdf

LIEN Currents, Winter 2008/2009 issue

Winter 2008/2009 issue

New OEB program to protect low-income consumers from rising energy costs: Board's comprehensive, province-wide approach commended by advocates

For immediate release                                        March 10, 2009

TORONTO - The Low-Income Energy Network today commended the Ontario Energy Board for establishing the new Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) and recognizing the needs of low-income energy consumers in Ontario. LIEN was responding to an OEB report released today following consultations held last fall.

The OEB instituted its consultation on low-income energy issues after LIEN secured a ruling from Divisional Court which found that the OEB has the jurisdiction to take affordability into account as part of its statutory mandate to set just and reasonable rates. This sets an important context for future proceedings before the OEB and for the successful operation of LEAP.

"LIEN is pleased that the OEB has recognized that energy poverty is an important issue requiring urgent action," said Sarah Blackstock, Research and Policy Analyst with the Income Security Advocacy Centre, a founding LIEN member. "And that the OEB will target significant funds to improve energy security in the province for the most financially vulnerable households."

"We have been advocating for a comprehensive energy poverty strategy for Ontario since LIEN's inception in 2004," noted Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director of the Canadian Environmental Law Association, another founding member of LIEN. "The OEB's report recognizes that a comprehensive approach is required and puts several necessary building blocks in place."

The LEAP emergency energy fund totalling about $5 million annually will be available year round on a consistent basis across the province, and will be provided by both electricity and gas energy providers together with social service agencies in each community. This will ensure that the program is available to low-income energy consumers in need all across Ontario.

Despite these improvements, the OEB declined to provide the permanent energy rate assistance program for low-income consumers that LIEN had recommended. The Board did recognize that LEAP will not in itself address broader problems of energy poverty. "We still have a long way to go to ensure that that all Ontarians have access to green, affordable energy, and we will continue to engage in broader discussions with the Ontario government, the Board and others in this respect going forward," said Blackstock.

Low-income consumers have difficulty accessing energy conservation and demand management programs, and the OEB report noted that there is a need for those programs to be targeted to low-income consumers. "LIEN looks forward to providing input as these new programs are designed," said McClenaghan. "Conservation programs are important to ensure low-income consumers can both reduce energy use and participate in the culture of conservation in the province."

An area of special concern to low-income consumers is that of terms of service imposed by energy providers on their customers. "The impacts of security deposits, disconnection and reconnection fees, late payment charges, imposition of smart meters and much else can be very devastating for individual families in need", stated Mary Todorow, Research/Policy Analyst with the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, another LIEN founding member. "The Board has signalled significant improvements to these terms which would result in alleviating some real hardship."

"We are also pleased that the Board is putting a strong emphasis on improving outreach and education, especially around the LEAP program. This has been a real deficiency in the available programs to date," noted Todorow, "with uneven access to programs and to information about programs."

Equitable access to basic energy needs is fundamental to families' and individuals' well being. LIEN is, therefore, very happy to note that the Board report indicates that the new LEAP program should be fully in place by November 2009, the next heating season in Ontario.

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For more information:
Theresa McClenaghan, Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA)
416-960-2284 ext. 219

Sarah Blackstock, Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC)\
416-523-5228 (cell)

Click on the following links to view the various OEB reports laying out the groundwork for a comprehensive assistance program for low-income energy consumers:

OEB media release: http://www.oeb.gov.on.ca/OEB/_Documents/Press+Releases/press_release_BoardReport_20090310.pdf

Board cover letter: http://www.oeb.gov.on.ca/OEB/_Documents/EB-2008-0150/LEAP_CODE_covltr_20090310.pdf

Report of the Board: http://www.oeb.gov.on.ca/OEB/_Documents/EB-2008-0150/Board_Report_LEAP_20090310.pdf

Appendix A - Staff Report to the Board: http://www.oeb.gov.on.ca/OEB/_Documents/EB-2008-0150/AppendixA_StaffReport_20090310.pdf

 

Green Energy Act holds promise of affordable utility bills for poor - but conservation measures must be coupled with rate assistance

(Toronto) The Low-Income Energy Network (LIEN) is encouraged by provisions in the proposed Green Energy Act (GEA) that could fund conservation programs targeted to low-income Ontarians to help reduce their household energy use and bills.  Such programs can ensure that our most financially disadvantaged citizens will not be left behind as Ontario develops a robust conservation culture.

The province's poorest households, struggling to pay for their housing, food, transportation, medicine and other basic necessities, simply do not have the money to invest in effective measures for deep energy savings, such as weatherization, insulation, and energy efficient heating equipment and appliances.  Low-income tenants face additional barriers to conserving energy since they depend on landlords taking initiatives to retrofit their buildings, for example, by replacing old fridges with energy efficient models.

"We anticipate that the Green Energy Act can make real progress on conservation programs targeted to low-income consumers.  Programs to date have been limited to pilots, involved short-term funding commitments or have focused on less extensive measures such as low-flow showerheads, aerators, pipe wrap, programmable thermostats and CFL bulbs," said Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director of the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) and a LIEN steering committee member. "Reduction in energy consumption can make bills more affordable. However, for significant impact for low-income consumers and the environment, we need permanent, adequately funded, fuel-neutral programs with a wide suite of measures available province-wide that are tailored to homeowners, tenants in private rental housing and tenants in social housing."

"Equitable access to energy conservation programs is the foundation of our comprehensive strategy to reduce energy poverty in Ontario," said Zee Bhanji, LIEN's Coordinator, "But conservation programs alone are not the solution to affordable energy for low-income consumers. They must be offered in tandem with a low-income energy rate assistance program."

LIEN is participating in the Ontario Energy Board's current consultation on issues affecting low-income consumers and recommending that the Board establish a ratepayer-funded energy affordability program.

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For further information:
Zee Bhanji, Low-Income Energy Network
416-597-5855 ext. 5167

LIEN Currents, September/October 2008 issue

September/October 2008 issue

News Categories

Low-Income Energy Network (LIEN)
c/o Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO)
1500 - 55 University Avenue
Toronto, Ontario, M5J 2H7
Phone: 416-597-5855 ext. 5167
Toll-free: 1-866-245-4182 ext. 5167
Fax: 416-597-5821
Email: info@lowincomeenergy.ca