News & Events

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

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

Victory at Divisional Court - But low-income energy consumers still face fight for affordable rates

Today, the Divisional Court sided with low-income Ontarians to rule that "the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) has the jurisdiction to establish a rate affordability assistance program for low-income consumers."

The Low-Income Energy Network (LIEN)'s representatives Mary Truemner, Acting Director of Legal Services with the legal aid clinic the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, and co-counsel Paul Manning of Willms & Shier Environmental Lawyers LLP were pleased that the Court declared that "to further the objective of protecting 'the interests of consumers' this could mean taking into account income levels and pricing to achieve the delivery of affordable energy to low income consumers ½".  They were cautious, however, in responding to the Court's determinations.

"While the Court ruled the OEB has jurisdiction, they did not also determine that the Board must exercise their discretion to set affordable rates for low-income consumers," said Mary Truemner. "It is for this reason that we urge the Minister of Energy to issue a directive that the Ontario Energy Board must design a rate affordability program to minimize the effects of rising energy costs on low-income Ontarians facing choices between heating, eating and paying the rent.  The Court noted that "the Minister has not issued any policy statement directing the board to base rates on considerations of the ability to pay."

The Income Security Advocacy Centre, a LIEN member and legal aid clinic, is asking that the government address energy poverty in its Poverty Reduction Strategy.

For more information:

Mary Truemner, ACTO, 416-597-5855 ext. 5163, cell: 416-996-1021
(Toll free in Ontario: 1-866-245-4182 ext. 5163)

Fight for lower energy bills for poor goes to Divisional Court

Today, the Low-Income Energy Network (LIEN) is appearing before a Divisional Court panel at 10:00 a.m. at Osgoode Hall, 130 Queen Street West, Courtroom #3. LIEN is arguing that the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) has the authority to set affordable gas rates for low-income energy consumers.

In April 2007, the OEB released a decision that it had no jurisdiction to implement rate affordability programs for low-income residential consumers. The Board decision was not unanimous. In a strongly worded dissent, OEB Vice Chair Gordon Kaiser argued, "I believe the Act gives the Ontario Energy Board broad powers and discretion to consider issues of public policy and the necessary jurisdiction to enact low-income rates."  Mr. Kaiser continued, "Put simply, just and reasonable rates do not result from the application of a purely mechanical process of rate review and design."

LIEN is appealing the OEB's decision to Divisional Court because a permanent rate assistance program is a crucial component of its strategy to address energy poverty in Ontario.

LIEN's representatives Mary Truemner, Acting Director of Legal Services with the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, and co-counsel Paul Manning of Willms & Shier Environmental Lawyers LLP said, "Low-income consumers struggle to manage their energy bills and pay for other essentials such as rent, food, transportation and medicine. The OEB should take this daily reality into account in order to set rates that are reasonable and just .

"We are hoping to convince the Court that the OEB is failing to protect the interests of low-income consumers whose only access to the vital service of energy is through a narrowly regulated utility currently allowed to set inequitable rates."

For more information:

Mary Truemner, ACTO, 416-597-5855 ext. 5163
(Toll free in Ontario: 1-866-245-4182 ext. 5163)

Legal appeal of Ontario Energy Board decision on low-income energy consumers

(Toronto) - Today, the Low-Income Energy Network (LIEN) announced it will not be giving up the fight for fair energy prices for low-income consumers in Ontario, despite a recent decision by the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) that thwarted the group's efforts. LIEN served notice of its appeal to Divisional Court of the Ontario Energy Board's (OEB) decision issued April 26, 2007 that it does not have the jurisdiction to implement rate affordability programs for low-income residential consumers. There was a very strong dissenting decision in this matter by Gordon Kaiser, Chair of the three-member Board panel, who found that the OEB does have the "jurisdiction to approve special rates for low-income consumers in appropriate cases."

"If LIEN does not appeal this decision, the OEB will continue to fix rates without assessing whether they are affordable to low-income consumers," says Paul Manning, a lawyer with Willms & Shier Environmental Lawyers LLP who argued LIEN's case for a rate affordability program at the Board.

"We need a 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 for their housing," says Mary Truemner, a member of the LIEN steering committee and Staff Lawyer for the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO).

LIEN has also asked Ontario's Energy Minister to issue a directive to the OEB to hold a generic hearing on the impact of energy prices on low-income and vulnerable consumers. LIEN wants the OEB at such a generic hearing to consider and implement solutions including low-income rate assistance. The Quebec government issued a similar directive in August 2006 to the Régie de l'énergie (Quebec's OEB equivalent).
For more information:

Mary Truemner, Staff Lawyer, ACTO
416-597-5855 x 5163

Ontario Energy Board claims no jurisdiction to create a rate class for low-income consumers

(Toronto) - The Ontario Energy Board released a decision yesterday in which the majority of the Board decided they have no jurisdiction to establish a rate group for low-income consumers.

In its submissions, LIEN had argued "Unaffordable gas and electricity rates cause great hardship to poor consumers in Ontario. Sometimes they are forced to choose between heating or eating."

"We are extremely disappointed that the majority decision sidestepped the opportunity to establish protections for low-income people," says Mary Truemner, a member of the LIEN steering committee and Staff Lawyer for the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO). "We were heartened that Gordon Kaiser, a Vice-Chair of the Ontario Energy Board, provided a dissenting opinion to the contrary."

In his dissenting decision, Mr. Kaiser argued, "I believe the Act gives the Ontario Energy Board broad powers and discretion to consider issues of public policy and the necessary jurisdiction to enact low-income rates." Mr. Kaiser continued, "Put simply, just and reasonable rates do not result from the application of a purely mechanical process of rate review and design. A Board can, and should, take into account a variety of considerations beyond costs in determining rates."

The Low-Income Energy Network is considering its legal options.

For more information:

Mary Truemner, Staff Lawyer, ACTO 416-597-5855 x 5163
www.lowincomeenergy.ca

New energy conservation pilot program good news for 2,500 low-income homeowner and renter households, lays groundwork for a province-wide program

(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.

Federal environmental plan must include 'green' for Canada's low-income households

Toronto - When the federal government announces plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions and smog this fall, it must include a national energy efficiency program for low-income households, according to leading affordable housing, construction, environmental and anti-poverty groups and Toronto Mayor David Miller.

"Every Torontonian, rich or poor, should be able to make their home more energy efficient to sustain long-term savings," said Mayor David Miller. "Unfortunately, without the support of the federal government, this is not a reality for low-income households. This is as much about improving the quality of life for our most vulnerable residents as it is about improving the quality of our natural environment."

"Funding a national energy efficiency program for those most in need is a smart economic and environmental move," said Zee Bhanji, coordinator of the Low-Income Energy Network.

"Retrofitting low-income housing creates jobs and improves Canada's housing stock," added John Cartwright, President of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council. "By addressing poverty and climate change, we'll make Canada richer. On average, energy retrofit programs save three times what they cost."

Canada's poorest spend 13% of their income on energy, compared with just 4% for average-income Canadian households. Energy inefficient housing is a key factor, yet low-income households are the least able to afford retrofits.

"Toronto Community Housing spends about 100 million dollars on utilities annually, up almost 30% from a few years ago. We are investing our limited resources to replace old appliances with energy efficient ones, but we need the federal government to fund a program to help us retrofit our housing to make it more energy efficient and affordable for low-income households," said Derek Ballantyne, CEO, Toronto Community Housing.

"A flexible program is required to meet the needs of all low-income Canadian households, including those in private rental, owner-occupied and social housing," said Gordon Chong, Chair, Social Housing Services Corporation. "We need to work in partnership with the federal government in order to ensure lasting, positive change."

"Social housing providers would combine their limited resources with federal funding and utility sponsored programs towards needed energy retrofits to address climate change," said Sharad Kerur, Executive Director, Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association. "It's time to work together on getting a national program in place."

"Green Communities Canada (GCC) was funded by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Natural Resources Canada, and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities last year to consult broadly in making its recommendations for a national low-income housing energy efficiency program framework," said Bruce Pearce, GCC's vice chair. "We met with Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn's staff in June - but winter is coming, and low-income households need action now."

Canada is currently one of the few Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries without a national low-income energy efficiency program. Both the United States and the United Kingdom have long- running programs in place.

For more information contact:

Cynthia Ross, Toronto Community Housing
416-981-4348; cell 416-882-3731
www.torontohousing.ca

Green Communities Canada (GCC) www.gca.ca
Green Communities Canada is a national association of 40 community-based non-profit organizations that deliver innovative environmental programs and services, with a focus on household and community action. GCC supports member organizations in working together to achieve environmental sustainability, including healthy ecosystems and communities, sustainable resource use, and clean air, water, and soil.

Low-Income Energy Network (LIEN) www.lowincomeenergy.ca
Formed in 2004, LIEN is a network of anti-poverty, affordable housing and environmental groups. LIEN has over 60 member organizations, as well as individual and corporate supporters. LIEN coordinates multi-stakeholder initiatives for mitigating the impact of high energy prices on low-income households and ensuring implementation of effective energy conservation programs and policies

Ontario Non-Profit Housing Corporation (ONPHA) www.onpha.on.ca
ONPHA is the voice of non-profit housing in Ontario, uniting 770 non-profit organizations providing housing in 220 communities across Ontario. Founded in 1988, ONPHA's members include municipal and private non-profits of all sizes, with all types of funding.

Social Housing Services Corporation (SHSC) www.shscorp.ca
SHSC is a non-profit, independent corporation created by provincial legislation in 2002 to support affordable housing in Ontario. SHSC offers programs and services - such as bulk purchasing, insurance, investment and information services - to help service managers and housing providers manage over 250,000 social housing units.

Toronto and York Region Labour Council www.labourcouncil.ca
The Toronto and York Region Labour Council is a central labour body that represents 195,000 women and men who work in every sector of the economy. Its mandate is to organize and advocate on issues that are vital to working families throughout the region.

Toronto Community Housing (TCHC) www.torontohousing.ca
TCHC, the not-for profit housing corporation owned by the City of Toronto, is home to about 164,000 low and moderate-income tenants - about six per cent of Toronto's population. These families, seniors, refugees, recent immigrants and people with special needs live in 58,000 households in communities throughout Toronto. Formed in 2002, TCHC is Canada's largest landlord and one of the largest social housing landlords in North America in terms of size, budget and properties.

Affordable energy rate plan for low-income people missing as May 1st electricity price hikes take effect

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."

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