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Ontario faces calls to dramatically increase energy efficiency rebate programs

Click to play video: 'The cost of retrofitting your home in Ontario'
The cost of retrofitting your home in Ontario
WATCH ABOVE: It’s something that homeowners would like to do, but likely can't afford; putting solar panels on the roof of your house to save on electricity bills. Colin D'Mello speaks to one GTA homeowner who took the plunge and wants the province to help others do the same. – Oct 5, 2022

Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government is facing calls to dramatically scale up its energy efficiency rebate programs to offload the pressures on the province’s electricity grid ahead of an energy shortfall in 2025.

The Independent Electricity System Operator — which manages Ontario’s power supply — warned the province that it needs to find additional sources of energy over the next three years or face the risk of blackouts or brownouts amid increased energy demand.

The report sent the Ford government scrambling to boost its energy supply, announcing new contracts with natural gas suppliers and the extension of the Pickering nuclear power plant until 2026 in order to make up for the shortfall.

The government, however, seems to have fallen short of its own energy creation goals and asked the IESO to create new small hydroelectric generation facilities to drum up additional capacity.

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On Tuesday, Energy Minister Todd Smith announced a $345-million increase in the province’s energy conservation programs to help homeowners reduce their reliance on the electricity grid during peak demand times.

Read more: Ontario program will see customers paid to run A/C less in bid to save energy

Richard Corley, an Ontario homeowner who is an early adopter of energy efficiency technology, said the Ford government needs to increase the number of incentives if the province is serious about reducing the load on the grid.

“From my perspective there absolutely should be much more,” Corley said.

Corley gave Global News a tour of his electrified home, which boasts a wall of solar panels on the roof of his house, a heat pump to regulate temperature and two electric vehicles charged using the power generated from his property.

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“We use about 25,000 kWh (kilowatt hours) a year and the solar panels generate about 15,000 kWh a year,” Corley said, adding that the energy upgrades have allowed the family to eliminate the use of natural gas or any fossil fuels from their lives.

Read more: Ontario energy minister asks for sped-up natural gas moratorium report

According to some estimates, a five-kilowatt solar panel capable of generating 20 kilowatt hours of electricity per day could cost upwards of $15,000 — the average household uses 26 kilowatt hours a day — leading to calls from some political parties to scale up provincial incentives to convince more homeowners to buy in.

“There’s a little help from the federal government, but frankly the provincial government needs to step in,” said interim NDP leader Peter Tabuns. “Families need more affordable options to make this kind of conversation, and that’s going to mean grants, on-bill financing so people don’t get stuck covering that upfront cost.”

The Ontario Clean Air Alliance is calling on the government to go further and to repurpose the estimated billions of dollars in funding to extend the life of the Pickering nuclear plant.

“Doug Ford’s government is planning to spend about $30 billion on nuclear power,” said Jack Gibbons with the alliance. “They’re planning to spend 100 times more money on nuclear power than on energy efficiency and that makes no sense.

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“It’s really important that the government provide financing for energy conservation programs. They should provide no down payment, zero-interest loans for home energy retrofits.”

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