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The Low-Income Energy Network (LIEN) welcomed Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli's announcement that the provincial government is moving forward to establish an Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP) for eligible low-income consumers to be in place by January 1, 2016.

A home energy rate affordability program has been a key component of LIEN's proposal for a comprehensive energy poverty strategy since its inception over ten years ago. Many of the essential components of that strategy have since been introduced by the Ontario Energy Board in their Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) and by the provincial government. These include:

*        energy conservation/efficiency programs at no-cost to low-income participants,

*        specific low-income customer service rules such as extended arrears repayment terms, and

*        emergency energy assistance to help low-income households in financial crisis.

All of these measures have been significant improvements to alleviate the energy burden on low- income households. Now, with the introduction of the OESP, the last key plank in a complete energy poverty strategy has been installed.

"Reduction in energy consumption can make bills more affordable, but those households with the lowest incomes still struggle to pay for home energy costs alongside other basic needs such as rent, food, transportation and medications", said Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director of the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA), one of LIEN's founding members. "LIEN looks forward to working on the implementation of the OESP, and on Phase Two of the program which will include additional financial assistance for those who heat their homes with electricity."

"The OESP will help prevent vulnerable households from falling into arrears and defaulting on their electricity bill payments," said Jennifer Lopinski, LIEN steering committee member and LEAP Intake Worker for Hydro One & Enbridge Gas at A Place Called Home in the City of Kawartha Lakes. "This rate affordability program will complement the still-needed emergency assistance program for those low-income consumers who face short-term financial hardship."

LIEN is a network of anti-poverty, affordable housing, environmental and social justice organizations that works to address the needs of Ontario's low-income households by ensuring the implementation of effective energy assistance and conservation programs and policies.

Additional materials:

LIEN media release

Ontario Minister of Energy news release

OESP backgrounder

OEB report to the Energy Minister re OESP

March 30, 2015

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