To The Editor,

It might be cheaper to just give people heat pumps than to expand natural gas service to eastern Ontario. Gas pipelines were too expensive for rural communities last year. I think they are still too expensive. Politicians say the new Access to Natural Gas Act will allow people to save money on their heating bills. Maybe some people, but mostly not.

The Access to Natural Gas Act (2018) will allow natural gas companies to “cross-subsidize” expansion costs by charging their existing customers more each month to pay the capital costs of pipeline expansion elsewhere in Ontario. This will make it more affordable for new customers, but old customers like me who paid expansion charges for my road 20 years ago, will now have to pay expansion charges again, this time for another community. As more villages contract for expanded gas service, won’t the monthly expansion charge on my gas bill keep going up? I would rather support a program that gives out heat pumps, it would be cheaper .

The recent gas line expansion to Fenelon Falls gives a sense of these costs.  Enbridge Gas agreed in 2017 to build a 37 km pipeline, costing $47 million, to enable 1525 homes and businesses to connect to natural gas service. That’s an expensive project… $30,000 per home or business. The Ontario government contributed $12.3 million to the project.  Remaining costs will be covered by new gas customers in Fenelon Falls who will see a “system expansion surcharge” on their monthly gas bills of $0.23/m3 for up to 40 years. Ouch. The government grant was enough to give each home/business in Fenelon Falls a heat pump… wouldn’t that have been better? No carbon pollution. No incrementally increasing cost of natural gas due to a carbon fee.

The new Access to Natural Gas Act won’t make expansion of natural gas service cheaper. It will redistribute the costs. Collectively, for the people of eastern Ontario, heat pumps are stilI cheaper. We need a program to help people afford the upfront cost of a heat pump.

Lynn Ovenden,