Work to resume on province-wide low income programs

An IndEco article

By: Amy Snook and Sura Abdul-Razzak

On July 5th, 2010 the Minister of Energy and Infrastructure issued a letter to the OPA and a letter to the OEB on province-wide low-income conservation and demand management (CDM) programs. The letter to the OPA was issued as a Directive, while the letter to the OEB was issued as a request to the OEB to resume work in relation to low-income consumers. In both, the Minister called for a coordinated approach to low-income consumers.

The Directive directs the OPA to develop an OPA –Contracted Province-Wide CDM Program for 2011-2014 for low-income residential consumers. The OPA Directive makes it clear that the LDC will be taking the leadership role in the delivery of low-income CDM programming in the LDC service territory. The Minister’s letter to the OEB should lead to the resumption of OEB efforts to develop and implement a low-income emergency financial assistance program and to complete the work the OEB began on customer assistance rules.

The Minister recognized that 2011 might be a transition year regarding the establishment of a ‘robust and integrated gas and electric low-income energy strategy’.

Directive on OPA-Contracted Province-Wide Low-income CDM Program

The Directive directs the OPA to begin immediately to design, implement and fund a CDM program for low-income residential consumers as part of its suite of OPA-Contracted Province-Wide CDM Programs for 2011-2014. The OPA must be guided in the development of this program by the following policy objectives:

  • CDM program will include province-wide outreach and provide access by suite meter customers
  • Endeavour to coordinate delivery with natural gas distributors
  • Install measures at no cost to the consumer, with emphasis on deep measures such as thermal envelope and appliance replacement
  • Program need not pass TRC, but should be evaluated by other metrics that OPA considers appropriate
  • Program should use consistent eligibility criteria, where appropriate

The OPA is also to ensure that a component of the OPA-Contracted Province-Wide CDM Program for commercial and institutional consumers targets multi-family buildings, including assisted and social housing.

The OPA is to report to the Minister this fall regarding the proposed implementation plan and recommendations.

OEB letter requests resumption of work on emergency financial assistance and customer service standards


On March 10th 2009, the Board issued a “Report of the Board: Low-Income Energy Assistance Program,” (“LEAP Report”) which describes the policies and measures for electricity and natural gas distributors to assist low-income energy consumers, including: emergency financial assistance, targeted conservation and demand side management programs, and more flexible customer service rules. On May 11th 2009, the Board issued a letter announcing the formation of two working groups to further the work necessary to implement the emergency financial assistance and conservation components of LEAP. IndEco facilitated these working groups and wrote the working group reports.

On September 8th, 2009 the Minister advised the OEB of the government's plan to develop a province-wide integrated program for low-income energy consumers. In light of these plans, the Minister requested that the Board not proceed with implementation of the framework for low-income energy consumers in advance of a ministerial direction. The Minister further indicated that the Ministry, in the development of its program, would build upon the work the Board had undertaken to date and asked the Board to work with the Ministry as the Ministry moved forward with the programs.

The request

The Minister’s July 5th 2010 letter recognizes the previous efforts of the Board regarding LEAP, and confirms that the OEB should resume work in relation to low- income energy customers. The Minister asked that the OEB complete its work by January 2011, and acknowledged that 2011 may be a transition year.

Regarding customer assistance with bill payments, the Minister asked the Board to:

  • Complete the initiative on customer service standards applicable to electric LDCs and develop similar rules for natural gas distributors, and for suite meter customers
  • Develop rules specifically tailored to low-income customers as warranted

Regarding emergency financial assistance, the Minister asked the Board to:
  • Continue its efforts to establish an emergency financial assistance program for low-income consumers, including those with suite meters
  • Consider increasing funding to emergency financial assistance beyond what the Board had originally suggested as part of LEAP

Regarding natural gas DSM, the Minister asked the Board to consider expanding both low-income and natural gas DSM and suggested the following low-income DSM policy objectives:
  • Province-wide customer outreach
  • Coordinated efforts between gas LDCs and the OPA
  • Provision of efficiency measures free of charge, with emphasis on deep measures such as thermal envelope and appliance replacement
  • The initiatives do not need to pass TRC; other metrics should be used for evaluation
  • Use of consistent program eligibility criteria, where appropriate

On July 7th 2010 the Board issued a letter to all electric and natural gas distributors indicating that the Board is currently developing a work program to address the above Ministerial requests.

Related information

Reports on last summer's work by the OEB on low-income matters that was facilitated by IndEco:
Read the Financial assistance working group report on the OEB website
Read the Conservation working group report on the OEB website
An IndEco report for SHSC:
Making Ontario's social housing stock more energy efficient
An IndEco report for the Ontario Power Authority (OPA):
Low-income program concepts developed for Ontario's Conservation Bureau
A discussion paper prepared by IndEco for the Toronto Environmental Alliance:
Developing a low-income energy conservation and assistance strategy for Ontario
About an award winning low-income residential program:
IndEco designs award winning low-income residential energy efficiency program
The OEB consultation on energy issues relating to low income customers (EB-2008-0150)
Complete list of Minister's directives to the OPA (including the low-income one)