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Tenants could face energy bills

Toronto Star - May 6, 2005
by Kerry Gillespie


The provincial government is considering legislation that would force tenants to pay their electricity bills directly as a way to help conserve energy.

Right now, in about 1.5 million Ontario tenant households , electricity costs are buried in the monthly rent. The theory behind the proposed law is that if the people responsible for turning the television and lights on pay a separate electricity bill, they might be motivated to use less energy.

"It's on the table, it's being looked at," Energy Minister Dwight Duncan said yesterday. Called sub-metering, it would require that every tenant household's power use be metered.

But environmental and tenants advocates argue that making such equipment switches in apartment buildings would do little to conserve energy and would hurt low-income tenants.

Big energy savings come from efficient fridges and stoves and, for electrically heated apartments, windows and furnaces.

"If you're going to use prices to change behaviour, you have to put the economic incentive in the right place," Keith Stewart, of the Toronto Environmental Alliance, told reporters at Queen's Park yesterday. If each tenant pays the bill, there is no incentive for the landlord to replace an old fridge with an energy-efficient one, he said.

Julia McNally, a lawyer with the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, said it has been told that sub-metering would include making tenants pay capital costs of the new equipment, plus a monthly administrative fee that could add $10-$20 a month to each electricity bill.


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