Utilities to launch energy programs
Conservation plans across the GTA come with rate hike
Old beer fridges and air conditioners targeted under plans
Toronto Star - December 11, 2004
by John Spears
Six of the province's biggest electricity utilities have been given the
go-ahead by the Ontario Energy Board to spend $70 million on
But an advocate for people with low incomes says he's disappointed that
the board didn't order the utilities to mount conservation programs
designed to help the poor — who are the most likely to heat their homes
with electricity, and would benefit most from energy savings.
The six big utilities including Toronto Hydro, Hamilton Hydro and GTA
utilities Powerstream, Veridian and Enersource, presented similar but not
identical conservation programs. Combined, their customers account for 40
per cent of the province's electricity use.
Energy Minister Dwight Duncan lifted a freeze on rates charged by the
local utilities on condition they spend the money on conservation programs.
Gunars Ceksters, chief executive of Mississauga's Enersource Corp.,
estimated that rates will rise 2 to 3 per cent to pay for the conservation
effort — but that the programs will give consumers the opportunity to
shrink their hydro bill by showing them how to reduce electricity use.
"We're going to be providing mass marketing to all our consumers — the
same message across the board, but the specifics will be tailored to each
utility," said Ceksters, speaking on behalf of the six utilities.
That means a joint campaign to push energy-efficient equipment such as
compact fluorescent light bulbs and "Energy Star" compliant appliances.
Other proposals by some, but not all, the utilities, include:
Offering to buy up old, power-guzzling "beer fridges" that some people
keep in their basements.
Installing devices that would allow utilities to flick off electric water
heaters or air conditioners when the power system is under strain.
Hooking up stand-by generators owned by hospitals and private firms to
help produce power during peak periods.
Better energy management in social housing developments.
Michael Janigan, a lawyer who represented low-income consumers at the
energy board hearings, noted the board encourages — but does not require —
utilities to devise programs specially geared to low-income consumers.
"We're disappointed the board did not see fit to mandate that," he said in
The majority of low-income earners rent apartments from private landlords,
he noted, so they won't benefit from the social housing programs. They're
also big power users, because one in four families in the lowest 20 per
cent income group in Ontario has electric heat.
That's double the over-all proportion in Ontario.
Janigan had presented a proposal for utilities to target low-income
earners, offering to provide advice and to install energy-saving equipment
such as improved draft-proofing, programmable thermostats and efficient
light bulbs. A low-level program would cost about $1,000 a unit; a more
elaborate plan of replacing furnaces and large appliances could be mounted
for $5,000 or $6,000 a unit.
Ceksters said the utilities are "looking closely" at ways of helping the
poor, but want to explore the best methods of delivering the programs.
Some utilities, for example, are interested in co-ordinating with Enbridge
Gas Distribution, which already has a program that sends staff into homes
to offer conservation advice and install equipment.
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