OEB moves forward with new Low-Income Energy Assistance Program

TORONTO, ONTARIO - The Ontario Energy Board (the Board) released its report laying out the groundwork for a comprehensive assistance program for low-income energy consumers.

The Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) proposes a number of measures, including financial assistance and customer service practices, designed to help low income Ontarians better manage their electricity and natural gas bills.

LEAP has three components: temporary financial assistance for consumers in need; access to more flexible customer service rules on matters such as bill payment and disconnection notice periods; and targeted conservation and demand management programs.

LEAP builds upon several existing programs in which a number of gas and electricity utilities in Ontario currently participate.

The new program is expected to be delivered year round by all utilities across the province providing one consistent standard for low-income energy consumer assistance.

"We believe it's important to have a comprehensive province-wide approach to assist low-income energy consumers," said Howard Wetston, Chair of the Ontario Energy Board. "An approach that not only provides financial assistance for those in need, but the tools to help low income consumers better manage their energy bills on an ongoing basis."

The Board is also issuing proposed amendments to the Distribution System Code, the Retail Settlement Code, and the Standard Supply Service Code. The proposed amendments would standardize and provide uniformity on a number of customer service policies for all electricity consumers across the Province, including bill payments, disconnection for non-payment and opening and closing accounts. The proposed amendments also include measures like arrears management, specifically tailored to the needs of low-income electricity consumers.

The Board expects LEAP to be available across the province by November 2009.



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