Ford government cancels electricity conservation programs

Ontario's government has cancelled a number of electricity conservation programs, including one which offered pool owners a $400 rebate for upgrading to energy-efficient pumps. 

Ontario government says centralizing delivery will save $442 million

The Ontario PCs have cancelled more than a dozen electricity conservation programs, including the Poolsaver program, which allowed pool owners who purchased energy-efficient pumps to receive rebates. (Galit Rodan/The Canadian Press)

Ontario's government has cancelled a number of electricity conservation programs, including one which offered pool owners a $400 rebate for upgrading to energy-efficient pumps. 

Carolyn Bickerton, owner of Purewater Total Home Leisure  in Ottawa, says the decision to cancel the Poolsaver program will be bad for business.

Bickerton has taken part in the program for the past two years, and said it's been instrumental in both growing the company and reducing electricity consumption for pool owners.

"I was really shocked," she said. "We had been told last fall that this program had a five-year life span."

Bickerton said the program's cancellation, which supported sales and increased installation bookings, means she probably she won't be able to fill two summer jobs.

"It's a successful program. I was really surprised because all the numbers show that we were saving people about $300 a year, just hard dollars, in their hydro bills every time they switched to one of these pumps," she said. 

Streamlining inefficient programs, says ministry

The PC government's decision comes on the heels of last summer's cancellation of the GreenON program, which provided incentives like free smart thermostats to those looking to make their homes more energy efficient.

Ontario's Ministry of Energy told CBC News it was taking action to reduce costs and duplication by streamlining what it described as a patchwork of inefficient electricity conservation programs in the province. 

The government plans to centralize delivery of electricity conservation programs through the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), a provincial agency funded through electricity rates, instead of having them delivered through local utilities like Hydro Ottawa. 

The PC government introduced the legislation last week.

"By centralizing our approach we're meeting 94 per cent of conservation goals and finding up to $442 million in savings in the electricity system," the energy ministry said in an email.

"This includes ending up to $150 million in bonus payments to local distribution companies that would not significantly improve results, and offers opportunity to streamline programs and reduce administrative costs right away."

Utilities that offer programs like the pool rebate are expected to fulfil existing contracts with their customers, however.

Customers can expect to receive their rebates upon the completion of their projects, which must happen before Dec. 31, 2020, said the IESO in a statement.

Jeff and Ashley Payne of Ottawa Pool Services say they're disappointed to see the Poolsaver program go. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

'Educate the public'

Jeff Payne, the owner of Ottawa Pool Services, called the government's decision to kill the pump rebate program "unfortunate."

"I would have like to see that program get continued. I know Hydro One was coming on board … that would have expanded the program quite a bit. Basically it's going to be a tougher resale market for pumps," Payne said.

Payne's wife Ashley said while the decision will impact businesses that focus more on installations, the program was still "a great way to educate the public" about energy efficiency.

"I can see for other companies who are focusing just on service, that it will be an impact," she said.

"They should still push, educate the public about energy savings because at the end of the day it's our planet and we have to pay for the energy," she said.

Bickerton said incentives and rebates are a good way of encouraging people to be energy-efficient. 

"Especially when it's at the point of purchasing, whether it's a furnace or windows or a pool pump. If they're given some kind of monetary carrot, they're going to jump on board a lot quicker," she said. 

Some programs will continue

The province said there will continue to be electricity conservation programs for businesses, institutions and low-income, and Indigenous customers.

It also said there would also be an opportunity for distribution companies to apply for funding from the IESO for cost-effective programs at the local level.

"We've set aside $27 million dollars so that local utilities can apply to get funding to run programs for their own local communities. So we will be working with utilities over the coming weeks and months to make sure that they're aware of how to do this," said Terry Young, vice-president of the IESO. 

The following province-wide programs will be discontinued: 

  • Instant Discount.
  • Heating and Cooling.
  • Audit Funding.
  • Residential New Construction.
  • High Performance New Construction.
  • Existing Building Commissioning, Monitoring and Targeting. 

The following local programs will be ending:

  • Pumpsaver (Toronto Hydro, Oakville Hydro).
  • Adaptive Thermostat Rebate Program (Toronto Hydro).
  • Instant Savings Program (Clotheslines) (Canadian Niagara Power Inc., Algoma Power, Westario, Bluewater, Entegrus, Essex Powerlines, Festival Hydro, Veridian Connections, Customer First Group).
  • OPsaver (Toronto Hydro, Oakville Hydro).
  • Midstream High-efficiency Agripumps (Niagara Peninsula Energy Inc., Hydro One).
  • Smart RT for Small and Mid-Size Business (Toronto Hydro).
  • Swimming Pool Efficiency Program (Toronto Hydro, Oakville Hydro, Hydro Ottawa Limited, Renfrew Hydro Inc., Burlington Hydro, Halton Hills Hydro, Milton Hydro Distribution Inc, Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro, Waterloo North Hydro, Hydro One, Veridian Connections).
  • Multi-Unit Residential Building In-suite Direct Install Lighting Program (Toronto Hydro, Oakville Hydro).