Metro News Toronto: Advocates warn of energy poverty that comes with high hydro rates

Posted November 25, 2016

Like many Torontonians, Angela Toussaint has seen her hydro bills skyrocket, increasing more than $50 a month since early this year.
But for her, higher prices are more than just a nuisance. They mean she’s often only able to pay some of the bill, falls behind on what she owes and lives in fear of her hydro being disconnected.
“In terms of my budget, it’s ridiculous,” she told Metro, adding she’s trying to get by on unemployment insurance and the rent for her apartment also went up by about $20 this year.
Toussaint was one of about 25 people protesting outside the Ontario Energy Board on Wednesday, as part of a movement organized by anti-poverty group ACORN to draw attention to the rising problem of “energy poverty” — vulnerable people falling through the cracks and bearing the brunt of high hydro rates.
“Low income and moderate income people, we have been suffering from this for a long time but now it’s more noticeable,” said Alejandra Ruiz Vargas, the organization’s East York Chair.
Since rates are now so high, Ruiz Vargas said many landlords are charging separately for hydro instead of including it in rent.
ACORN wants to see the income threshold for the Ontario Energy Support Program ($28,0000 for a family of two) increased so more people will be eligible for help with hydro bills.
They’d also like to see the province put strict rules around disconnection and reconnection fees when people miss payments from both Toronto Hydro and sub-metering private companies.
Tori Gass, a spokeswoman with Toronto Hydro said disconnection is always a “last resort,” but the agency needs to charge fees to cover the cost of the process so that it’s not passed on to other users. A spokeswoman from the Minister of Energy’s office, Katrina Xavier, said the province has worked to introduce consumer protections around disconnections.
The province will also remove 8 per cent from Hydro Bills, starting in January. Premier Kathleen Wynne has vowed more relief is on the way, but hasn’t specified exactly what that might be.
Article by May Warren for Metro News Toronto