Ontario and energy poverty: addressing it at last?

Almost every day, it seems, the Ontario government must publish a press release announcing the wonders of what the government does for its citizens.

The press release of December 28, 2017 was typical, listing “free” stuff the government had announced over the past year. It referred to minimum wage increases, free tuition, free prescription drugs, etc.

Strangely, there was no mention of the Fair Hydro Plan or electricity in general, the issue that is/was top of mind by most voters in the province.

The December 28 release carried a quote from the Premier on how government is making life “fairer.”   

“As Premier, the most important part of my job is listening to the people of Ontario. When we make changes to legislation and regulations, it’s about responding to real concerns from people in every corner of our province. And it’s all part of our work to make Ontario a fairer and better place to live. We want to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to get ahead in this changing economy.”

 Electricity may not have been mentioned expressly but a lot is happening on that file that will affect Ontario’s ratepayers, in addition to kicking the costs of the Fair Hydro Plan down the road.

The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) appears to be the epicenter: the OEB recently announced it is establishing a “panel” to review how the OEB “can continue to protect consumers”.  The panel won’t report until next year, well after the election date of June 7, 2018.

The OEB’s survey on service rules, or dealing with “energy poverty”

The launch of the OEB panel was preceded by announcement of a survey by the OEB on September 7, 2017 to deal with why many ratepayers are unable to pay their electricity bills. The OEB explained why in a press release 

“Are there any times when Ontario energy utilities shouldn’t be allowed to disconnect customers? How much time should customers be given to pay and should they be allowed to use credit cards? Should energy utilities be allowed to ask for security deposits?”

A web search using the press release’s heading, “Public asked for input on customer service rules for Ontario energy utilities” indicates the survey received no media attention.  Nothing on the OEB site indicates local distribution companies (LDC) were told to notify their ratepaying customers about the survey.  How will this survey receive a broad and “fair” response? The survey results will be provided by pollster Ipsos to the OEB.   The survey is copyrighted so you cannot copy/paste any of the material provided or the questions asked without permission.  What happened to the transparency we were promised?

The survey will supposedly inform the OEB on how to treat ratepayers caught in the “heat or eat/energy poverty” scenario.* The survey asks for responses on “arrears payment arrangements” e.g.,  how long it should allow for repayment, whether late payment charges should apply, etc.  It asks, how long notice should be given for “disconnection” and if “load limiting devices” should be allowed, if utilities should offer equal monthly payment plans and if security deposits should be required, etc.  The survey appears to want a consensus allowing the OEB to set terms and conditions on how households living in energy poverty are to be treated.

No questions ask about pre-paid meters, but that idea is part of the Hydro One application submission for a rate increase currently before the OEB.

Tomorrow: why the sudden interest in how best to treat those living in Energy Poverty.

 

Parker Gallant

 

* Energy Poverty is generally defined as spending 10% of household income on heat and utilities: From Huffington Post “ In Ontario, at least one in five households fall into this category spending on average 12 per cent of their income on utilities

 

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7 thoughts on “Ontario and energy poverty: addressing it at last?”

  1. Sounds like another “implied consent!!!”

    “Implied consent is consent which is not expressly granted by a person, but rather implicitly granted by a person’s actions and the facts and circumstances of a particular situation (or in some cases, by a person’s silence or inaction).”

    This runs ramped in Ontario… till more people start speaking up about these issues…… it will continue….

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  2. “As Premier, the most important part of my job is listening to the people of Ontario. When we make changes to legislation and regulations, it’s about responding to real concerns from people in every corner of our province. And it’s all part of our work to make Ontario a fairer and better place to live…”

    This statement could not be further from the truth. Kathleen Wynne has received hundreds if not thousands of letters regarding the harm from noise, low frequency noise and infrasound from industrial wind turbines in rural Ontario. She has not responded to these people in any way that indicates she has even read their letters, much less comprehended the harm these people are experiencing. The level of disillusionment with her leadership and her party is profound. She will go down in history as having been absolutely callous. Her lack of compassion is beyond belief.

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  3. Thank you Parker for speaking out for the people who are directly experiencing energy poverty in Ontario. I can’t imagine what it would be like to endure this extremely cold weather without electricity.
    The highest imperative for a government is to provide safe and affordable energy. This government has failed miserably.

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  4. This is unfortunately only the tip of the iceberg… as more unneeded wind and solar is added to the grid it become more unstable and wasteful…
    in 2022 the liberals kick the debt down the road fair hydro plan becomes a kick in the @ss for ratepayers….
    that combined with a 50% increase in rates due to the liberals selling even higher priced hydro to NY Michigan and Pennsylvania for a fraction of the cost… will literaly put the price of hydro out of reach for many…..
    Like a ticking time bomb….
    tick… tock… tick… tock….

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  5. As for addressing the energy poverty situation… its already being implemented … selling off Hyrdo None means there can be no “investigations” … poor auditor general Bonnie Lysk was ignored anyways…
    any company has the obligation to make money for their shareholders…. period…
    By implementing prepay hydro the compnay is ensuring that it satisfied the shareholders investment by ridding the company of debt….. aka… folks that can’t afford the inflated mismanaged hydro..
    Prepay eliminates the companies debt…
    it’s your fault you can’t afford the overpriced inflated hydro.
    Not the company or the government….

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