Several recent announcements are good news for rural Ontarians seeking access to natural gas for their homes, farms and businesses.
In June 2021, the government of Ontario said it would move forward with Phase Two of its Natural Gas Expansion Program, allocating $234 million to support approximately 8,750 connections in 43 rural, northern and Indigenous communities in the province. The government is expanding access to natural gas across the province to help keep the cost of energy low for families, businesses and farmers. Construction of several rural expansion projects began in 2021 and all Phase Two projects are expected to be underway by the end of 2025.
Some households could save up to $1,500 a year by using natural gas for heating instead of other fuel sources, while the average business or farm is expected to save 30 per cent a year. Phase Two will support economic development in the Hamilton and Niagara areas with expansion projects planned for Grimsby-Lincoln, the Hamilton Airport and surrounding areas. Construction projects are expected to create approximately 5,000 jobs within these communities.
“Natural gas is important to give farms and other rural agri-businesses a competitive edge,” says Peggy Brekveld, president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. “When my dairy farm got natural gas, we saw our fuel bills go down by about $500 a month. That’s a big help to our bottom line.”
Supporting Local Communities
Access to natural gas is not only expected to reduce the cost of living, but also allow businesses to reinvest in communities and local economies, and make communities more attractive for job creation, bringing prosperity to remote and Indigenous communities.
Since its launch in 2019, Phase One of the program supported projects expected to connect more than 9,000 customers across 16 communities. Natural Gas Expansion Program projects are funded through a monthly charge of $1 to existing natural gas customers.
Possible phase-out of natural gas
Despite its own expansion program and its commitment to helping reduce energy costs for families and businesses, the Ontario government is looking to phase out the use of natural gas for generating electricity by 2030, but a recent report concluded that such a rapid phase-out could result in blackouts and hinder electrification, and would cost more than $27 billion to build new sources of electricity and upgrade transmission and distribution lines. However, the report determined there are potential pathways to accomplish a phase-out over a longer timeframe.