Energy policy - consulting with consumers

Learn about policies we’re developing that may affect you, and have your say
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The policies we develop for the energy sector can have a direct impact on households and small business owners throughout the province. So we’re providing opportunities for those who may be affected to have your say. It’s important to consider your views so that we can better understand the implications of our work. This ensures the policies we develop are fair and transparent, and informed by evidence.

In some cases, we ask our province-wide Consumer Panel to provide the customer perspective or we undertake other types of research. As much as possible, we want to engage with consumers directly using tools like surveys or focus groups. 

We actively seek consumers’ views on a number of policy consultations. In addition to these, below you'll also find past consultations and the results.

We are currently seeking consumer feedback on the following policy consultations:

Review of Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP)
As part of our commitment to protect low-income energy consumers and ensure they continue to have access to help when they need it most, we are reviewing the Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP).

The program, which launched in 2012, provides up to $500 in emergency financial assistance for electricity and natural gas bills (up to $600 if the home is electrically heated) to eligible low-income consumers who are in arrears and facing disconnection. Each electricity and natural gas distributor is expected to contribute 0.12 per cent of their total OEB-approved distribution revenue or $2,000 annually towards LEAP, whichever is greater.

Our review is examining a number of facets to LEAP, including the funding formula, whether the grant amounts are appropriate and how those grants are delivered. We will seek input from consumers, utilities and social service agencies, and based on that feedback we will prepare a report outlining our findings and recommendations for proposed changes to LEAP.

have your say

The OEB is reviewing the Low-income Energy Assistance Program Emergency Financial Assistance, or LEAP EFA, and is encouraging consumers to have their say.

Regulating Unit Sub-Meter Providers
Unit sub-meter providers (USMPs) are companies that provide metering and billing services for some condos or apartments where each unit has an individual meter. USMPs are not the utility that provides service in your community (e.g. Thunder Bay Hydro, Hydro Ottawa, Toronto Hydro, etc.). In the government’s 2017 Long-Term Energy Plan, the Minister of Energy directed us to examine and identify steps to strengthen consumer protection in relation to the activities of USMPs - especially relating to prices and customer service processes. In 2018, the OEB will begin regulating what USMPs charge their customers. We are also reviewing their customer service rules to make sure that USMP customers' rights are protected.

The survey will help us gain insight into USMP customers’ understanding of the company who is billing them, their knowledge level about how unit sub-metering works, how much they pay for monthly service fee and other charges, level of service and complaints, preferred method of communication, and more.

 

Review of Customer Service Rules - Phase 2
Our Customer Service Rules Review is proceeding in two phases. In Phase 1, we proposed a suite of changes to strengthen the customer service rules that protect electricity and natural gas consumers throughout the province. Learn more here.

In Phase 2 of our Customer Service Rules Review, we are examining rules for electricity and natural gas services that were not addressed as part of Phase 1, covering the opening and closing of accounts, billing errors and service charges relating to management of customer accounts. As with Phase 1, we are engaging consumers, consumer representatives, utilities and other industry stakeholders to review how effective the rules have been in protecting energy consumers and in meeting their expectations.

Protecting energy consumers is at the heart of all that the OEB does every day, and the Customer Service Rules Review is central to that commitment.

Here's some information about other energy policies that are under active development.

Review of Customer Service Rules - Phase 1
We make sure energy companies follow rules that ensure consumers are treated fairly and that our energy sector continues to serve us well today and for the future. As part of that commitment, we are reviewing our customer service rules for electricity and natural gas services in areas such as security deposits, disconnections and payment plans.

We want to be sure that they continue to be relevant and serve the needs of consumers, and that they maintain an appropriate balance between consumer protection and the ongoing operational needs of utilities.

The review included feedback from consumers, including representatives of low-income groups, utilities and other interested stakeholders. 

 

Demand Side Management (DSM) Mid-Term Review
In March 2014, the Ontario Minister of Energy issued a directive to us to continue to promote energy efficiency in the natural gas sector through conservation programs (also known as demand side management, or DSM). As part of that, we reviewed and approved applications from Enbridge and Union Gas that show how much they plan to spend on ratepayer-funded conservation programs over a six-year period, from January 1, 2015 until December 31, 2020.

We're now conducting a mid-term review to examine how that money is being spent, whether Enbridge and Union Gas are meeting their conservation targets and whether their programs are effective. This review will also consider the overall energy conservation landscape.

 

Net Metering Consultation
Some electricity consumers produce their own power from a renewable energy source, such as solar panels. Net metering allows those consumers to receive a credit on their bill for the value of any excess electricity they send to their electricity distributor’s system.

On July 1, 2017, amendments to Ontario’s net metering regulation took effect that we believe could result in growing interest in net metering. We started a consultation to look at such things as improving the availability of information on net metering, strengthening our understanding of how net metering is developing and how best to manage and recover distributor administrative costs related to net metering.

A Net Metering Working Group has been set up that includes members from electricity utilities and industry associations to provide us with some of the information we need to help us plan our next steps in making these improvements.

 

Framework for the Assessment of Distributor Gas Supply Plans
On average, the natural gas supply charge can make up about 30 per cent of a residential customer’s bill. To ensure consumers are receiving value from gas distributors, we are enhancing our oversight by improving how we assess gas supply plans. To do that, a Working Group that included industry experts and a wide range of consumer representatives was consulted and provided valuable advice that has been incorporated in the approach we are finalizing.

Specifically, we are looking at how the natural gas supply plans of Enbridge, EPCOR and Union Gas satisfy the goals of cost efficiency, supply reliability and meeting government policy objectives, including strategies to use renewable natural gas as a potential fuel source to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

 

Natural Gas Demand Side Management (DSM) Evaluation, Measurement & Verification (EM&V)
Every year, we carry out detailed engineering reviews that evaluate the performance of the conservation programs (also known as demand side management, or DSM) offered by Enbridge and Union Gas. These evaluations measure the energy savings that conservation programs are achieving to ensure that they are providing value for ratepayers.

That work involves the help of expert consultants and an Evaluation Advisory Committee (EAC) that consists of representatives from the natural gas utilities, non-utility stakeholders, independent experts, staff from the Independent Electricity System Operator and observers from the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario and Minister of Energy. The EAC’s role is to give us input and advice on evaluation activities.

 

Developing an Assistance Program for Low-income Electricity Customers
In 2015, we developed an ongoing, and on-bill, rate assistance program in response to a request from Ontario’s Minister of Energy. The Ontario Electricity Support Program, or OESP, came into effect on January 1, 2016.

In developing the program, we gathered significant input from consumers and partners, including First Nation and Métis communities, low-income advocates and consumer representatives, utilities, provincial ministries and social service agencies that provide services to low-income households.

 

Reviewing the Effectiveness of the Energy Consumer Protection Act, 2010 
In 2013, Ontario’s Minister of Energy asked us to review the effectiveness of the Energy Consumer Protection Act, 2010. The Act has been in effect since 2011, helping to protect consumers from hidden costs, excessive cancellation fees and other unfair practices, while ensuring they have information they need to make the right decisions about energy contracts.

In our review, we reached out to thousands of consumers through an innovative online workbook, focus groups and a telephone survey. A total of 14 recommendations were provided to the Minister of Energy, including banning door-to-door sales for residential consumers. Our recommendations contributed to new legislation that came into force on January 1, 2017. We then consulted with consumers and industry in preparing the necessary rules and consumer-friendly educational materials needed to give effect to the new protections.

 

Examining the Potential Impacts of the Proposed Energy East Pipeline for Ontario 
In November 2013, Ontario’s Minister of Energy asked us to examine and report on TransCanada PipeLines Limited’s proposed Energy East Pipeline from an Ontario perspective. We embarked on a comprehensive consultation, visiting seven communities along the route of the pipeline and hearing the views of local and First Nation and Métis residents on Energy East. We engaged technical experts to assess the issues that had been raised and returned to the communities to share our experts’ preliminary assessments. We also held a stakeholders’ forum where environmental groups and industry and business representatives discussed the province-wide issues and interests surrounding Energy East. In total, some 13,000 Ontarians took the time to address the OEB. 

Our report to the Minister of Energy included more than 20 recommendations seeking to strike a better balance between the risks and benefits of the project to Ontarians.

 

 

For a complete list of all of our policy work, visit policy initiatives and consultations in our industry section. Closed/historic public consultations, and the result, can be found in our archive of policy initiatives and consultations.

 

Why and how do we consult?

The Government of Ontario, through the Ministry of Energy, sets the overall policy for the energy sector. That overall policy guides how we make rules that energy companies must live by.  We think about the long-term needs of our energy sector and develop regulatory policy to meet those needs and emerging challenges.

Consultations are a fundamental part of the way we carry out our regulatory duties. Consulting allows us to have a better understanding of the implications of our policies before we implement them. Your feedback helps us make better decisions, builds understanding, and drives progress towards finding solutions aimed at protecting the interests of current and future energy consumers.