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Keeping the Lights On: Maintaining Universal Access to Electricity

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), a Canadian non-profit organization specializing in utility law and regulation released a study today that suggests that the restructuring of the electricity industry in Canada may create results which disproportionately burden low-income customers. Michael Janigan, Executive Director and General Counsel of PIAC and co-author of the study stated,

” While it is difficult to predict outcomes based upon the current experience with restructuring in the electricity industry in other jurisdictions, there is reason to believe that small volume customers will suffer a detrimental impact as a result of electricity restructuring.”

Several provinces, including Alberta and Ontario have moved towards the creation of a competitive retail market for electricity. Others including New Brunswick are committed to studying the prospect.

The PIAC report Keeping The Lights On: Maintaining Universal Access To Electricity looks at possible policy solutions for financial hardship to low-income consumers. The report surveys various programs that have been put in place by US jurisdictions to deal with problems in maintaining utility access, but does not recommend an immediate move to US style programs.

“Prolonged and sustained electricity increases as a result of restructuring would be a likely result of poor market design,” Janigan said. “This shouldn’t be fixed by subsidizing low-income customers but by fixing the market design.”

Conversely, the report concludes that the problem of short-term electricity price spikes may justify the implementation of a program to mitigate the impact of such price increases.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre provides legal representation, research, and advocacy services on behalf of consumers, particularly vulnerable consumers of important public services.

A hard copy of the report may be obtained at a cost of $8.00.

To order your copy today please contact the Public Interest Advocacy Centre
(613) 562-4002 ext. 60(phone)(613) 562-0007 (fax) or by e-mail piac@piac.ca

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