New plan will help consumers struggling with hydro bills

Through Ontario’s new Affordability Fund, people who don’t qualify for low-income programs but are still finding it difficult to pay hydro bills are eligible for upgrades to make their homes more efficient.

Province's 'affordability plan' could provide free LED bulbs, block heater timers to customers

People in Sudbury are able to apply for energy-saving equipment under the province's affordability plan, administered through Sudbury Hydro. (CBC)

Sudbury Hydro is lending a hand to people who are struggling to meet the rising costs of energy consumption.

Through Ontario's new Affordability Fund, people who don't qualify for low-income programs but are still finding it difficult to pay hydro bills are eligible for upgrades to make their homes more efficient.

That includes everything from LED light bulbs to energy-efficient appliances.

Erin Connelly, conservation supervisor with Sudbury Hydro, said the program is designed to "fill the gap" between low income earners and those who may even have two incomes, but still are feeling the pinch from energy costs.

"Those who were still feeling like their electricity was still a burden, there was really not a lot they could do without making upgrades to their home," Connelly said. "So this was kind of a program to help make some of those upgrades or at least get started on them."

"And a lot of people who are on fixed incomes, they don't have a chance to really increase their income, this can help them as well," Connelly said.

Check out www.afforadbilityfund.org

The process begins when people reach out to www.affordabilityfund.org, Connelly said. There they can enter some basic information about their monthly income alongside their monthly bills.

Even households who earn two incomes could qualify for the "1st-level" energy saving kit, which gets delivered free of charge.

"It has LED lights, power bar with timer, weather stripping, an LED night light and block heater timer," Connelly said.

Other people would qualify for even larger kits, depending on the difference between their income and how much they spend on electricity. For those, a representative from the local utility provider will visit the home to assess energy expenditures, as well as areas for potential savings.

Those could include replacing old appliances, adding new insulation and programmable thermostats. There is even a contingency fund set aside in case of major health or safety issues that could turn up during an assessment.

Connelly said because the offer is free, there may even be some skepticism around it.

"There are a lot of scams out there," she said, "but this is totally legitimate, and administered through your local utility."

With files from Jan Lakes