Green Energy Act Promising for Low Income Ontarians Says CELA

Hope for a Renewably Powered Ontario in New Act

Feb 23 2009

Toronto. Among the many promising aspects of the new Green Energy Act introduced in the Ontario legislature today are provisions relating to energy conservation programs that may be used to ensure low income Ontarians have access to energy conservation programs. “The benefits of energy conservation to lower income households are huge,” stated Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director of the Canadian Environmental Law Association, but those same households often face impossible barriers to applying effective conservation measures.” Barriers include the upfront costs of better insulation, building structures and high efficiency appliances. Other barriers include some tenancy rules and insufficient resources for lower income households in conservation programs, especially for those paying their own heat and electricity in the private rental market or own homes.

The Low Income Energy Network (LIEN), of which CELA is a steering member, is calling for broader measures to alleviate energy poverty, including rate assistance for unaffordable energy bills. The Act’s provisions allow regulations to prescribe classes of consumers for the purpose of rate-protection by the Ontario Energy Board (OEB). Additionally, the Act includes assessment provisions related to funding conservation and renewable energy programs. “We look forward to working with the provincial government regarding the details, regulations and any policy directives regarding the new measures in the Green Energy Act,” stated McClenaghan. “We also look forward to broader discussions regarding rate assistance and alleviation of energy poverty. Even with conservation programs there will be many people whose energy bills remain unaffordable for a variety of reasons. We must ensure equitable access to energy to all Ontario residents. Energy is not a luxury and its lack creates real hardship for families, including greatly increased risk of loss of homes.”

Also in the Act as proposed are provisions intended to improve planning and siting of new renewable power projects. “Comprehensive reports like Power for the Future, and Renewable is Doable, demonstrate the potential for renewable projects. Next steps, made possible by this new law, must ensure these projects can be sited and up and running in appropriate locations as soon as possible,” said McClenaghan. “We want to see our province powered with sustainable, renewable power, not with nuclear and coal power, which are dinosaur technologies with devastating impacts.”

“Putting public consultation up front in the process, ensuring that projects meet stringent health and environmental standards that are specified from the outset, and providing the safeguard of an appeal to the Environmental Review Tribunal on appropriate grounds, are critical measures proposed in this Bill,” said Richard Lindgren, counsel with CELA. “It will be very important that thorough public input ensure that the very best health and environmental standards are in place.”

CELA also notes the importance of ensuring that the detailed definitions of the renewable projects covered by the Act, such as, for example, biomass, reflect strong sustainability principles. “It is essential that government provide a good process to arrive at these details,” said Lindgren. “We have to ensure that renewable actually means renewable and that we don’t inadvertently create new problems in our forests and our agricultural lands.”

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For further information:

Richard D. Lindgren 416-960-2284 ext. 214
Theresa McClenaghan 416-960-2284 ext. 219

On-line:

Green Energy Act
Green Energy Act Alliance

Renewable is Doable

Power for the Future

Low Income Energy Network

Environmental Registry: Link to consultation on proposed bill
(note: if link expires, search Registry for item 010-6017)