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