(July 22, 2014) “Green sustainable energy is working for Ontario making us all more prosperous.” There are a large number of people in Ontario who would disagree with that statement and they are reflected in the increasing number of people living in “energy poverty”.
A letter to the editor appearing in the London Free Press on June 5, 2014 written by Kristopher Stevens, Executive Director, Ontario Sustainable Energy Association (OSEA) — who claim they brought us the Green Energy and Green Economy Act (GEA) — opens with: “Green sustainable energy is working for Ontario making us all more prosperous.”
There are a large number of people in Ontario who would disagree with that statement and they are reflected in the increasing number of people living in “energy poverty” which Mr. Stevens and his ilk had a big part in creating. Stevens and other renewable energy advocates pushed renewable energy and the feed-in tariff (FIT) programs on the gullible Ontario Liberal Party (OLP) and the OLP bought the sales pitch; lock, stock and barrel!
So what is “energy poverty”? The Guelph & Wellington Task Force for Poverty Elimination define it as: “households that spend more than 10 percent of their income on home energy, affects about one million households in Canada. In Ontario, the lowest income quintile – one in every five* households – spend on average 12 per cent of their income on utilities,”
* That would translate into approximately 530,000 households in Ontario based on the Ontario Energy Board’s (OEB) approximately 4.4 million residential electricity ratepayers as noted in their 2012 “yearbook of distributors”.
Finding statistics on those “one in every five households” however, is very difficult without months of research and a myriad of people to do the research.
There is no “central” place that either seeks or collects the data related to “energy poverty”! I did stumble on an organization; LIEN (Low-Income Energy Network) that has a genuine interest in assisting those “one in every five households” and managed to connect with them. Interestingly enough they had recently held their 10th annual conference and posted the participants as well as their member list. In a discussion with the LIEN coordinator, Zee Bhanji, I learned that 14.7% of Ontario’s population is living at or near the “poverty line” and that she was not aware of where to obtain statistics related to “energy poverty.” The 10th anniversary of the founding of LIEN resulted in a letter from them to Premier Wynne and the leaders of all the provincial parties asking for support of a low-income energy rate affordability program for Ontario. The letter suggested a “threshold of 6% of total household income as the maximum amount that low-income consumers should have to pay for total energy bills”.
Almost a month after the LIEN conference, Energy Minister, Bob Chiarelli fired off a four- page letter “to seek the Ontario Energy Board’s advice” in a report back to the Ministry of Energy on “Developing and Implementing an Appropriate Electricity Rate-Affordability Program for Low-Income Electricity Consumers.” Having greatly expanding “energy poverty” the Liberals now sought a solution to solve it!
The letter; directed to Rosemarie Leclair, Chair & CEO of the Ontario Energy Board (salary for 2013 of $503,171) highlighted the 100% plus increase in electricity rates the Liberals had effected in their 10-plus years in power and carried this message:
“Low-income consumers face a particular challenge. The electricity bill for a typical household consuming 800 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity per month represents eight per cent of the total income of a family with an annual income of $20,000, and four per cent of the total income of a family with an annual income of $40,000,”
What Mr Chiarelli failed to note was that the 8% was really 10% (a “typical” Toronto household is paying $2,000 annually) with “after-tax” dollars and if his calculation were done on that basis if would be well over 12% for the lower level and 10% for the higher level. The Minister’s letter was dated before the most recent rate increase of May 1 and before the other industrial rate incentives he instructed the OPA to institute which transfers additional costs to those “typical” ratepayers.
In questioning Ms. Bhanji further on how to obtain those elusive “energy poverty” statistics it was suggested that I contact Jennifer Lopinski, Program Administrator at A Place Called Home (APCH) of the City of Kawartha Lakes & Haliburton County. She said that she was aware that APCH had conducted some research on the subject.
APCH’s website identifies five ways they can help the City of Kawartha Lakes & Haliburton County residents on their website. One of those ways was identified as:
“if you are facing a disconnection of essential utilities in your home and/or have trouble managing these bills” identified as the “Emergency Home Energy Program“.
It is obvious that the push by the Liberal governments in the 11 years they have been in power will increase “energy poverty” but to what extent is an unknown! Chapter two of this will bring in some available statistics that will extrapolate the available data and highlight to what extent “energy poverty” now affects Ontario’s low-income households!
In the interim we invite Kris Stevens to ponder how that “green sustainable energy” is making us all more prosperous!
Parker Gallant is a retired bank executive and a former director of Energy Probe Research Foundation. As with all independent bloggers on this site, Parker’s views do not necessarily reflect those of Energy Probe.