Yesterday, I dealt with the government’s apparent interest in “energy poverty” and specifically noted a consumer survey currently being used by the OEB in an attempt to define how local distribution companies should deal with payments for accounts in arrears.
When the government released its Economic and Fiscal Review 2017: A Strong and Fair Ontario in November, the minister claimed, “Our plan is working. There are now more jobs in Ontario than ever before —more than 800,000 net new jobs since the depth of the recession”.
Impressive: but did those “800,000 net new jobs” have any effect on reducing Ontario’s energy poverty?
The statistics betray a sad situation for Ontario citizens struggling to pay power bills. Two weeks after the launch of the OEB survey and two months before the 2017 Fiscal Review, an interesting 29-page report appeared on OEB’s website. Named “Data reported to the Ontario Energy Board by Electricity Distributors” it was full of bad news for the period from 2013 to the end of 2016.
The bad news included the number of ratepayers who had been disconnected, the accounts in arrears (up 85,141 or 27.7% since 2013,) and the amount of arrears at year-end. It included customers with “arrears payment agreements,” the amount of those and those cancelled (up 96.4% since 2013). It has data on write-offs, accounts enrolled in equal or monthly payment plans, etc. etc. It also has data on security deposits, customers with “load limiting devices,” those with “timed load interrupter devices,” the number of “eligible low-income customers” (Hydro One’s increased by 520% since 2013), and those disconnected for nonpayment (up 180% since 2013), etc. etc.
New jobs? No effect on poverty
Based on the “data” in the report (kept under wraps by the OEB), it certainly appears the economic policies of the government may have created “800,000 net new jobs” but it hasn’t done much to counteract “energy poverty” — that has escalated since 2013.
It’s also unclear why the OEB didn’t issue a press release in respect to the data. My queries to them about the 2016 results of the OESP (Ontario Energy Support Program) and LEAP (Low-income Energy Assistance Program) also remain unanswered.
It appears the government has ignored facts and focused attention instead on more spending to make people believe they can have more “free” stuff. The August launch of the Green Ontario Fund was one such event; the government plans to “invest” $377 million in proceeds from its carbon market to establish the fund.
The minister was quoted in the press release: “Taking strong action on climate change means making it as easy as possible for people and businesses to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at home and work, while also saving money.”
Programs (rebates) offered via the “Green Ontario Fund” can be in the tens of thousands of dollars, but the homeowner or small business owner must have funds of an almost equal amount and must work with a “qualified” contractor. One should assume those who have fallen in arrears on their hydro bills don’t have the cash required to insulate their home or install a heat pump to save money, or they would have been able to pay their monthly energy bill. The $377 million in cap and trade dollars will clearly be handed out to only those who can afford to spend to reduce emissions.
No comment on the strain on Ontario families
There was no commentary associated with the OEB’s data so there is no discussion of the strain put on family members, food banks, charitable institutions and churches called on to help pay hydro bills.
One wonders how much those individuals and institutions helped by way of paying electricity bills and if the contributions exceeded the “write-offs” ($50.9 million in 2016) by the local distribution companies? One also wonders how many single parent families, seniors, disabled, etc. are living in freezing homes or apartments trying to keep their electricity bills at affordable levels? The recent record low temperatures throughout the province will surely exacerbate the problems associated with their electricity bills being experienced by so many caused by the government’s energy policies.
That $377 million the government is spending could have gone a long way to alleviate the true cost of the Green Energy Act, as could the approximately $400 million paid to corporate wind power developers in 2017 for power they didn’t produce (it was “curtailed” or not added to the grid, but paid for).
I hope the people occupying those 800,000 new jobs are doing their part in generously donating to the charities, food banks, churches, etc. to keep Ontarians living in “energy poverty” warm and fed!
(C) Parker Gallant
NB: You can find out how your LDC is doing in respect to “energy poverty” by reviewing the OEB data report. Link is here: https://www.oeb.ca/sites/default/files/2013–2016-disconnection-late-payment%20data-by-utility_20170921.pdf