As the cost of electricity continues to rise, some Ontario businesses may soon be getting a break on their hydro bills.
Bob Chiarelli is the Ontario Minister of Energy. (Provided)
The provincial government is saying it wants to expand two programs that give discounts to big electricity users in an effort to help some businesses deal with the rising rates, according to a press release issued by the ministries of Finance and Energy on Thursday.
Under the new proposal, the government would lower the threshold for businesses to qualify for the Industrial Conservation Initiative. The program gives discounts of 15 to 20 per cent to businesses that use large amounts of electricity during “peak hours” – between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. – if those businesses agree to “provide a substantial reduction” to their electricity use during peak hours.
Currently, the program is only open to businesses that use an average of over five megawatts a month during those peak hours. Under the new proposal that would be lowered to three megawatts.
The government is also proposing an expansion to the Industrial Electricity Incentive.
That program currently provides discounted electricity to factories, mines and other resource extraction businesses if they expand and create new jobs.
Under the proposed expansion, “other energy-intensive sectors, such as greenhouses, data processing and refrigerated warehousing” would also qualify.
The government said it also has a plan to help small businesses, but there won’t be any discounts. Instead, that plan is focused around conservation.
The government said it will send out “roving energy managers” to help small businesses find ways to use less electricity.
It will also promote existing subsidies and rebates, including “incentives for energy audits, retrofits and lighting replacement,” that are part of the saveONenergy conservation program. One of those incentives, a rebate for energy efficient lighting, will be increased.
The government said it also plans to introduce “on-bill financing,” where the government provides up-front funding for energy conservation upgrade and users pay it back through their hydro bills, to businesses in 2015.
“Ontario is taking advantage of its strong electricity supply to create jobs and build our economy,” said Bob Chiarelli, minister of Energy, in a press release. “Expanding these industrial incentives will reduce electricity system costs by better using our available power and help support a dynamic and innovative climate for business to thrive, grow and create jobs — strengthening local economies across the province.”
Mr. Chiarelli said last December he anticipates rates will increase 42 per cent over the next five years, with larger jumps over the next two decades.