News & Events

Vulnerable Ontarians to see significant reductions in their electricity bills

For immediate release:

March 2, 2017

(Toronto) The Low-Income Energy Network (LIEN) welcomed the measures announced today in the Ontario Fair Hydro Plan which will provide households with an average 25 per cent reduction on their electricity costs, while low-income, northern and rural households will receive an even bigger reduction.

“Access to electricity is a necessity, not a luxury,” said Zee Bhanji, LIEN Coordinator. “Ontarians should not be forced to make difficult choices about whether to keep the lights and heat on, or pay for rent, food, medicine, clothing, transportation and other basic necessities.”

Under the enhanced Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP), low-income families will benefit from a 50 per cent increase in the monthly on-bill credits. In addition, the OESP credit will be available to more households. This will make a real difference for these Ontarians struggling to pay their bills.

Energy choices are limited in rural and northern Ontario, where there is a reliance on electricity for space heating and water heating. Access to water is effectively denied when those households have their electricity disconnected since water pumps cannot work without power. The expansion of the Rural and Remote Rate Protection program (RRRP) – the funding for which was doubled by the Ontario government last month - from about 350,000 to over 800,000 consumers will bring much needed relief for those paying very high distribution rates.

On-reserve First Nations residential electricity consumers will have their delivery charge on their bills removed completely.

LIEN has been working for more than 12 years with the provincial government on putting together the components of an energy poverty strategy. The Ontario Fair Hydro Plan builds on what has been achieved to date, ensuring sustained and effective electricity service affordability for low-income and other vulnerable Ontarians.

“These measures, together with the current low-income rate mitigation programs will make a substantial difference in the lives of vulnerable Ontarians,” said Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director of the Canadian Environmental Law Association and LIEN steering committee member.

LIEN looks forward to further assisting the government, the Ontario Energy Board and other stakeholders on the implementation of the Fair Hydro Plan, which is expected to be in place by this summer.

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For more information including interviews with a LIEN representative, please contact:
Zee Bhanji, LIEN Coordinator
416-597-5855 ext. 5167

Disconnected customers to get winter relief from Hydro One

MEDIA STATEMENT

December 7, 2016


Disconnected customers to get winter relief from Hydro One


The Low-Income Energy Network (LIEN) welcomes Hydro One’s announcement today that it is restoring electricity service to all of its residential customers who are currently living without power due to disconnection for bill payment arrears. Hydro One advises that they will be reaching out to each of these 1,425 customers to assist them in addressing the financial difficulties that led to their loss of service.

This new Winter Relief program is in addition to Hydro One Inc.’s voluntary policy of not disconnecting service for bill payment arrears during the winter season (i.e. usually from Dec. 1 to March 31).

LIEN is encouraged by Hydro One’s promise of a proactive and comprehensive approach to resolving payment difficulties for its vulnerable customers while continuing to provide essential electricity service, particularly for those who heat their home with electricity. Hydro One’s recognition that vulnerable, low-income customers face particular hardships and that they should be assisted rather than penalized is an important step forward in better addressing the energy needs of these Ontarians. Many low-income individuals face difficult financial pressures on a daily basis to meet their basic needs such as paying for rent, utilities, transportation, food, medicine and other necessities. This announcement from Hydro One is a positive step in supporting low-income customers who are unable to pay the rising cost of electricity in the province, as we await the cold winter months ahead.

LIEN looks forward to ongoing work with the government and Ontario utility companies on solutions to energy affordability.


For more information including interviews with a LIEN representative, please contact:
Zee Bhanji, LIEN Coordinator
416-597-5855 ext. 5167

About LIEN

The Low-Income Energy Network (LIEN) was formed in 2004 by anti-poverty, affordable housing and environmental groups in response to the impact of rising energy prices on low-income Ontarians. LIEN promotes programs and policies which tackle the problems of energy poverty and homelessness, reduce Ontario's contribution to smog and climate change, and promote a healthy economy through the more efficient use of energy, a transition to renewable sources of energy, education and consumer protection.

Download PDF file

 

Advocates working to reduce energy poverty in Ontario welcome new electricity bill affordability program for low-income consumers

For immediate release:

March 26, 2015

 

(Toronto) The Low-Income Energy Network (LIEN) welcomed Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli's announcement today that the provincial government is moving forward to establish an Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP) for eligible low-income consumers to be in place by January 1, 2016.

A home energy rate affordability program has been a key component of LIEN's proposal for a comprehensive energy poverty strategy since its inception over ten years ago. Many of the essential components of that strategy have since been introduced by the Ontario Energy Board in their Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) and by the provincial government. These include:

  • energy conservation/efficiency programs at no-cost to low-income participants,
  • specific low-income customer service rules such as extended arrears repayment terms, and
  • emergency energy assistance to help low-income households in financial crisis.

All of these measures have been significant improvements to alleviate the energy burden on low- income households. Now, with the introduction of the OESP, the last key plank in a complete energy poverty strategy has been installed.

"Reduction in energy consumption can make bills more affordable, but those households with the lowest incomes still struggle to pay for home energy costs alongside other basic needs such as rent, food, transportation and medications", said Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director of the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA), one of LIEN's founding members. "LIEN looks forward to working on the implementation of the OESP, and on Phase Two of the program which will include additional financial assistance for those who heat their homes with electricity."

"The OESP will help prevent vulnerable households from falling into arrears and defaulting on their electricity bill payments," said Jennifer Lopinski, LIEN steering committee member and LEAP Intake Worker for Hydro One & Enbridge Gas at A Place Called Home in the City of Kawartha Lakes. "This rate affordability program will complement the still-needed emergency assistance program for those low-income consumers who face short-term financial hardship."

LIEN is a network of anti-poverty, affordable housing, environmental and social justice organizations that works to address the needs of Ontario's low-income households by ensuring the implementation of effective energy assistance and conservation programs and policies.

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For further information:
Zee Bhanji, LIEN Coordinator
416-597-5855 ext. 5167
www.lowincomeenergy.ca

 

Additional materials:
LIEN media release

Ontario Minister of Energy news release

OESP backgrounder

OEB report to the Energy Minister re OESP

 

Advocacy group applauds Energy Minister's proactive move to help vulnerable consumers pay their bills

For immediate release:

April 24, 2014

(Toronto)The Low-Income Energy Network (LIEN) commends the government's commitment to ensuring ongoing affordability of electricity bills for Ontario's low-income households. The Ontario Electricity Support Program, which was announced by Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli today, is an important component of a comprehensive approach to reducing energy poverty in Ontario - for which LIEN has been advocating since 2004.

"We are pleased that Minister Chiarelli has directed the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) to develop an electricity rate affordability program which will help low-income consumers pay for their essential electricity service and other basic needs such as rent, food, transportation and medications," said Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA), one of LIEN's founding members. "We look forward to participating in the OEB's consultation hearings to provide input into the program's design."

The Ontario Electricity Support Program will build on the OEB's Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) and is scheduled to come into effect on January 1, 2016.

LEAP has been in place since 2011 and has three components: more flexible customer service rules on matters such as arrears payment plans and disconnection notice periods; emergency energy assistance, and energy conservation programs targeted specifically to low-income consumers.

LIEN is a network of anti-poverty, affordable housing, environmental and social justice organizations that works to address the needs of Ontario's low-income households by ensuring the implementation of effective energy assistance and conservation programs and policies.

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For further information:
Zee Bhanji
LIEN Coordinator
416-597-5855 ext. 5167
www.lowincomeenergy.ca

Time for Energy Rate Affordability Program in Ontario

For immediate release:
March 25, 2014

(Toronto) As the Low-Income Energy Network celebrates its 10th anniversary today at its annual symposium, the top line message from the conference is the need for an energy rate affordability program in Ontario.

LIEN has been advocating a comprehensive solution to energy poverty in Ontario over the last ten years. From emergency energy assistance, to low-income energy conservation programs, to better terms of service for low-income consumers, there has been great progress in the province. But the missing link is an Energy Rate Affordability Program to make sure that electricity bills are within reach for low income consumers. LIEN advocates a province wide program that sets a threshold of 6% of total household income as the maximum amount that low-income consumers should have to pay for their total energy bills - for heating and non-heating energy uses. Above that threshold, difficult choices have to be made between food, rent, electricity, medication and other essentials.

The work LIEN has done demonstrates that low-income energy affordability programs are good for utilities and their ratepayers too, because bills become much more manageable for the lowest income consumers.

Today, LIEN has sent a letter to all of Ontario's provincial party leaders, urging them to support a low income energy rate affordability program for Ontario.
Letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne
Letter to Hon. Tim Hudak
Letter to Hon. Andrea Horwath
Letter to Mike Schreiner  

 

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For further information, please contact:

Theresa McClenaghan
Executive Director & Counsel
Canadian Environmental Law Association
Cell: 416.662.8341
E-mail: theresa@cela.ca

Zee Bhanji
Coordinator
Low-Income Energy Network
Tel: 416.597.5855 ext. 5167
E-mail: bhanjiz@lao.on.ca

Mary Todorow
Policy Analyst
Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario
Tel: 416-597-5855 ext. 5173
E-mail: todorom@lao.on.ca

Download PDF file

Long-Term Energy Plan a positive move, but affordable energy rate program needed to protect the vulnerable

For immediate release:

December 3, 2013

(Toronto)The Low-Income Energy Network (LIEN) strongly supports the government's commitment to energy conservation and renewable energy in the updated Long-Term Energy Plan which was unveiled by Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli yesterday.

"Conservation and efficiency is the fastest and easiest way to meet our energy needs, and cheaper than building new generation. It also reduces our environmental impact, including greenhouse gas emissions," noted Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director of the Canadian Environmental Law Association, a founding member of LIEN. "We welcome the government's effort to develop a culture of conservation, and trust that low-income consumers will have equal opportunities to participate."

While the announcement of on-bill financing for energy efficiency retrofits in the new plan is encouraging news for homeowners wishing to undertake renovations, special considerations must be made to ensure that low-income consumers are protected from disconnection in the event that they default on their utility bill.

Despite aggressive conservation, electricity rates are expected to rise. This is especially troubling for low-income consumers who are vulnerable to increases in shelter and utility costs and will be forced to make difficult choices between heating, eating and paying the rent.

"What is required is a long-term, proactive solution that will help keep the lights on for low-income households in the province," said Zee Bhanji, Coordinator of LIEN. "We have been advocating for a permanent, province-wide low-income electricity rate assistance program since 2006."

The Ontario government has shown leadership in greening the electricity system and spurring a healthy renewable energy sector. We hope they continue this leadership by ensuring that progress is made on establishing a rate affordability program targeted to low-income consumers.

LIEN is a network of anti-poverty, affordable housing, environmental and social justice organizations that works to address the needs of Ontario's low-income households by ensuring the implementation of effective energy assistance and conservation programs and policies.

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For further information:
Zee Bhanji, LIEN Coordinator
416-597-5855 ext. 5167
www.lowincomeenergy.ca

LIEN open letter to the Premier re: Ontario Energy Board decision to deny approval for Toronto Hydro conservation programs

July 26, 2011

OPEN LETTER

The Honourable Dalton McGuinty,
Premier of Ontario
Legislative Building
Queen's Park
Toronto ON M7A 1A1

Dear Premier,

RE: OEB decision to deny approval for Toronto Hydro energy conservation programs

I am writing on behalf of the Low-Income Energy Network (LIEN) to share our serious concerns about the pullback on funding for energy efficiency and conservation programs in Ontario.

Low-income energy conservation programs play a vital role in assisting vulnerable consumers to lower their energy bills, maintain healthier and more affordable housing, and therefore reduce the risk of homelessness. These programs enable low-income consumers to participate in the "Culture of Conservation" to reduce energy use and related greenhouse gas emissions which contribute to climate change.

Recent decisions by the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) have forced both electricity and natural gas distributors to restrict cost-effective conservation programs they offer to consumers. This is a great setback for consumers and the environment. It was also surprising since, in a Directive issued on July 5, 2010, the Minister of Energy urged the OEB (and the Ontario Power Authority) to take on an expanded policy-making role in conservation and consider increasing current conservation budgets for natural gas and electric utilities.

Ontario Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller also criticized the OEB for putting up barriers to increased energy conservation in his Annual Energy Conservation Progress Report - 2010 (Volume One), Managing a Complex Energy System, released last month. Miller says that the OEB has established rules that could hinder the Conservation and Demand Management (CDM) programs offered by the province's electricity utilities. "The OEB has given utilities all of the responsibility but none of the freedom to modify or improve programs if necessary."

Energy conservation is cheaper and more environmentally sound than building new power generation facilities. LIEN encourages the Premier and all Parties, as part of their election platforms, to commit to strong and robust low-income energy conservation programs in which vulnerable Ontarians can participate. Furthermore, we urge your government to issue a strong, clear Directive to the OEB, instructing them to approve all cost-effective energy conservation and efficiency programs that are proposed by local distribution companies. If legislative changes are necessary to ensure compliance with this Directive, we also urge you to make them.

We appreciate your urgent attention to this matter.

Sincerely,
Per: Low-Income Energy Network

Original signed by

Zee Bhanji
LIEN Coordinator

cc: Rosemarie Leclair, Chair and Chief Executive Officer of the Ontario Energy Board
Honourable Brad Duguid, Minister of Energy
Mike Schreiner, Leader, Green Party of Ontario
Andrea Horwath, Leader, Ontario New Democratic Party
Tim Hudak, Leader, Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario
LIEN member organizations

OEB improvements to electricity customer service rules will help keep lights on for low-income people

For immediate release:

Friday, April 1, 2011

(Toronto) The Low-Income Energy Network (LIEN) welcomes the long-awaited release of the Ontario Energy Board's (OEB) customer service rules that are specifically designed to help financially-strapped low-income households maintain their residential electricity service.

The rules released this week are part of the OEB's Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) - a comprehensive plan consisting of: emergency relief for consumers in short-term payment crisis; targeted energy conservation and demand management programs to reduce energy consumption and costs, and the new flexible rules on matters such as security deposit and fee waivers, arrears payment plans and disconnection notice periods.

"This is good news for low-income consumers who struggle to pay for rent, food, transportation and their basic energy needs," said Jennifer Lopinski, LIEN steering committee member and the Emergency Home Energy program administrator with A Place Called Home in the Municipality of Kawartha Lakes. "When attempting to resolve their electricity arrears, low-income consumers will have real options to reduce financial hardship. We're also pleased that the OEB is consulting on implementing similar conditions of service rules for low-income natural gas customers."

LIEN actively participated in the OEB's proceeding which was initiated three years ago to develop the new customer service rules, and continues to advocate for the establishment of a permanent energy rate affordability program for low-income consumers that would proactively prevent households from falling into arrears.

The new low-income customer service rules will come into effect on October 1, 2011. For more details about the rules and eligibility, please see the OEB backgrounder at: http://www.ontarioenergyboard.ca/OEB/_Documents/Press+Releases/bckgrndr_lowincome.pdf

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For further information:
Zee Bhanji, LIEN Coordinator
416-597-5855 ext. 5167
www.lowincomeenergy.ca

Energy Minister gives "green" light to low-income energy programs

For immediate release:                                                     July 6, 2010

(Toronto)The Low-Income Energy Network (LIEN) is pleased that Energy and Infrastructure Minister Brad Duguid issued a letter yesterday to the Ontario Energy Board (OEB), requesting it to resume work on a province-wide strategy to help low-income consumers reduce their energy consumption and costs. The Minister also sent a companion letter to the Ontario Power Authority (OPA), directing it to roll out an electricity conservation and demand management program targeted specifically to low-income consumers.

"This is good news for low-income consumers who have been waiting too long for a solution to energy poverty. They do not have the resources to pay for energy-savings retrofits, and are seriously challenged in meeting 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), a LIEN steering committee member.  "We're also pleased that the OEB and OPA have been asked to coordinate on the delivery of the conservation programs by gas and electricity distributors."

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 last September pending expected ministerial direction.  LEAP had three components: more flexible customer service rules, emergency financial assistance, and conservation.  LIEN participated in the two LEAP implementation working groups and anticipates that the OEB will build on the guiding principles developed for effective programs.   

"The need for an adequately funded emergency energy assistance program is critical to avoid homelessness for vulnerable households facing short-term financial crises", said Jennifer Lopinski, LIEN steering committee member and the Emergency Home Energy program administrator with A Place Called Home in the Municipality of Kawartha Lakes.  "It's encouraging that the Energy Minister has asked the OEB to consider increasing the original funding allocation for the assistance program previously announced under LEAP."  

The new programs are expected to be in place by January 2011, but LIEN believes some protections, such as improved customer service rules and emergency assistance for the upcoming heating season, should be implemented earlier.   

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For further information:
Zee Bhanji, LIEN Coordinator
416-597-5855 ext. 5167
www.lowincomeenergy.ca

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.

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