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Ontario pulls the plug on electricity-conservation programs

Ontario's Energy Minister Greg Rickford speaks with Labor Minister Laurie Scott at the press conference at Queen's Park in Toronto on Dec. 17, 2018. Mr. Rickford outlined with a series of measures Thursday, including the revival of the former Liberal Government's Fair Hydro Plan,

Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press

Ontario is an elimination of key energy-conservation programs and overhauling the provincial regulator as it continues to search for ways to reduce power rates and keep the promise made by Doug Ford in the last year's election campaign.

Energy Minister Greg Rickford outlined a series of measures Thursday, including revising the former Liberal Government's Fair Hydro Plan, but acknowledged that the actions will only achieve cost savings for consumers. He reiterated his government's commitment to lowering the electricity rates by 12 per cent but said it has "measured, systematic approach" to doing so. , though local utilities have already filed their rate requests for next year and are typically asked for an annual increase of less than 2 per cent.

"Our government is strongly committed to taking the bold steps to fix the hydro mess that was left to us by the previous government," Mr. Rickford told and Queen’s Park news conference. He said the measures will be announced Thursday will help "stabilize costs, drive efficiency and cut waste in the energy sector."

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Seven Conservation Programs To Be Eliminated Including Subsidies For Modern Lighting, Such As LED Bulbs, More Air Conditioners And Furnaces And Upgrades To Commercial Refrigeration Equipment. The government will also centralize the delivery of eight programs aimed at businesses, low-income seniors and First Nations communities; they will now be run by the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) rather than the local utilities, which will cost $ 150 million a year in bonus payments.

All told, the cuts are expected to save $ 442 million over three years in a system that generates more than $ 21-billion a year.

The energy-efficiency programs that are being eliminated are designed to help consumers lower their electricity use. Critics say the government's cuts will ultimately mean greater use for households, businesses, and public-sector institutions such as schools and hospitals.

The previous government snake pursued and "Conservation first" policy to keep people on electricity demand in order to reduce the need for expensive new sources of power in the future. While the province currently has a surplus of capacity, the IESO has warped its faces and shortfall for peak-hour demand as early as 2023.

"Energy efficiency is the best bang for the buck for the people of Ontario," said Corey Diamond, president of the Efficiency Canada's "advocacy group." Cuts to energy-efficiency programs mean reducing the cost-effectiveness of our electricity system. ”He added that energy-efficiency programs are popular with homeowners and labor-intensive, creating jobs for heating and air-conditioning technicians and installers.

Mr. Rickford said Ontario homeowners support energy conservation and do not need government programs to subsidize their efforts.

Former premier Kathleen Wynne introduced the Fair Hydro Plan two years ago as she was faced mounting pressure over steeply rising electricity prices, especially for rural Ontarians. The plan cut the average residential rates by 25 per cent by extending the payment period for the system's long-term debts – and moving the short-term relief but adding $ 21-billion in long-term interest payments.

Mr. Rickford said the government is keeping the short-term subsidies in place but will shift the financing of the electricity system to general revenues, as recommended by the provincial Auditor-General. That move adds $ 1.8 billion to interest charges this year. The government will also need to identify consumers' bills in order to show the real cost of electricity, the minister said.

The government is also acting on a recent advisory report on the Ontario Energy Board with a new board of directors and chief executive, separate from the quasi-judicial commissioners. It issued a series of directives to reduce the length of regulatory hearings and the costs of local distribution companies.

The Ontario Energy Association, which represents the utilities, welcomed the changes. The Improved Structure for the OEB "Will Help Instill Investor Confidence And Promote Innovation And Job Creation In A Sector Going Through A Technological Transformation," said President Vincent Brescia. The System In The Future.

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