- Stephen Lecce, MPP
Ontario Supports Those Struggling with Electricity Bills during COVID-19
The Ontario government announced that it will continue to support provincial electricity consumers by providing stability and greater customer choice, while helping those struggling to pay their energy bills as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Details of the new programs were provided by Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Greg Rickford, Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, and Bill Walker, Associate Minister of Energy.
$9 million for the COVID-19 Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) to support consumers struggling to pay their energy bills during the pandemic. CEAP will provide one-time payments to consumers to help pay down any electricity bill debt incurred over the COVID‑19 period. Applications will be available through local utilities in the upcoming months;
$8 million for the COVID-19 Energy Assistance Program for Small Business (CEAP-SB) to provide support to businesses struggling with bill payments as a result of the outbreak; and
An extension of the Ontario Energy Board's winter disconnection ban until July 31, 2020 to ensure no one is disconnected from their natural gas or electricity service during these uncertain times.
In addition, the government recently announced that it will continue the suspension of time-of-use (TOU) electricity rates and, starting on June 1, 2020, customers will be billed based on a new fixed COVID-19 Recovery Rate of 12.8 cents per kilowatt hour.
"While we make progress to contain this deadly virus, we know people will need to stay home when possible and businesses will need ongoing support as we gradually and safely reopen the economy," said Premier Ford. "Providing additional rate relief, flexibility and customer choice will help ensure everyone can recover from this extraordinary crisis and get back to a life that is as normal as possible."
Starting June 1, 2020, the new COVID-19 Recovery Rate comes into effect for electricity customers who pay TOU rates. This fixed rate will apply to TOU customer bills 24 hours a day, seven days a week, providing stability and certainty for consumers as the government restarts the economy and supports individuals and families who continue to spend more time at home.
The COVID-19 Recovery Rate will be in place until October 31, 2020, followed by a new customer choice initiative. Starting November 1, 2020, customers will be able to choose a plan that best suits their household and lifestyle with the option of either TOU electricity rates or tiered pricing, which will provide a set rate for electricity up to a certain level of consumption.
"We recognize that businesses and families are living with a great deal of uncertainty, and they need to know what they can expect when they open their electricity bills every month," said Minister Rickford. "The new COVID-19 Recovery Rate will provide stability for Ontario electricity consumers, while we work to re-open our province and restart our economy."
The government will continue to subsidize electricity bills by 31.8 per cent through the Ontario Electricity Rebate. The government is providing approximately $5.6 billion in 2020-21 as part of its existing electricity cost relief programs, to help ensure more affordable electricity bills for eligible residential, farm and small business consumers.
"With the financial hardships faced by so many in our province as a result of COVID-19, those struggling to pay their electricity bills need support," said Minister Walker. "This program, in partnership with the Ontario Energy Board and local distribution companies, will support electricity consumers by keeping rates stable and affordable."
The new COVID-19 Recovery Rate is the Ontario Energy Board (OEB)’s Average Regulated Price Plan (RPP) Rate, which is based on the forecast average electricity supply cost for RPP consumers as of November 1, 2019, as published in the OEB’s most recent RPP Price Report.
Time-of-use (TOU) electricity rates vary by time of day and are comprised of three different rate periods of off-peak, mid-peak and on-peak pricing.
Tiered electricity rates provide customers with a set rate for electricity up to a certain level of consumption. The rate increases for all electricity use that exceeds this threshold.
The OEB sets both tiered and TOU rates as part of the RPP.
There are approximately five million residential consumers, farms and some small businesses billed using TOU electricity prices under the RPP.
Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19
Visit Ontario’s website to learn more about how the province continues to protect Ontarians from COVID-19.
Additional supports for Ontario electricity consumers include the Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) and the Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP).