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Electricity Customers Want to Save Money and Limit Greenhouse Gases: First-in-Canada Conservation Incentive from Toronto Hydro Delivers on Both

FEB 6, 2007 - 07:59 ET
TORONTO, ONTARIO -- (CCNMatthews - Feb. 6, 2007)

An overwhelming majority of Toronto Hydro-Electric System customers want a repeat performance of an innovative new electricity conservation incentive program called 'Summer Challenge' that delivers on two important customer priorities: saving money and saving the environment. On February 5, 2007, Toronto Hydro submitted its report on the Summer Challenge program to the Ontario Energy Board, which originally approved the Summer Challenge initiative.

According to research conducted in September by The Strategic Counsel, 77 per cent of residential customers and 73 per cent of commercial customers indicated they would actively participate in 'Summer Challenge' if it were re-instated next summer. Asked what their top reasons were for endorsing the program, 61 per cent of residential customers and 77 per cent of commercial customers said that saving money came first; 20 per cent of residential customers and 9 per cent of business customers indicated that 'positive environmental impact' came second.

Summer Challenge was a high visibility, low cost program that was launched when Toronto weather was hot, when air quality was poor, and when people were tempted to turn up their air conditioners to stay cool - resulting in a potential strain on the electricity grid and increased smog. The program was intended to raise public awareness about the importance of electricity conservation, complement other conservation programs that Toronto Hydro had already launched, and trigger large numbers of consumers to act quickly by offering a financial incentive.

To that end, the program rewarded eligible customers with a 10 per cent rebate if they used 10 per cent less electricity from July 15 to September 15, based on weather-normalized data from their 2005 electricity bill. A total of 539,313 residential and small commercial customers who were considered eligible were enrolled automatically in the program.

"I saw the Toronto Hydro ads last summer and thought it was a great way for me to save some money and do something positive for the environment," said residential customer Christina Marshall. "They made it simple to get involved, and I had fun looking for ways to meet the challenge. Altogether, I cut my hydro use by 470 kWh, and on top of that saving, I received a credit of $13.60."

Not unexpectedly for Toronto customers who last year experienced 11 smog alert days, Summer Challenge's other big draw was the environmental impact of saving electricity. During the Summer Challenge, energy reduction was 79.4 million kilowatt-hours, equal to taking 80,000 homes off the electricity grid for an entire month. Greenhouse gas emissions were also significantly reduced, with a C02 emissions reduction in Toronto of 43,000 tonnes, equivalent to taking 56,765 cars off the road for two months.

At the conclusion of Summer Challenge, 153,637 Toronto Hydro-Electric System customers, or more than one in four (28.5 per cent) eligible customers, had earned rebates totaling $3.1 million by reaching the 10 per cent target. Interestingly, 51,000 of those customers had succeeded in reducing their electricity use by 25 per cent or more. The average rebate for residential customers was $17.44.

"The simplicity of the program captured the attention of Torontonians. The Summer Challenge delivered impressive results in a very short time and got families and small businesses thinking about conservation during the summer months," said Jack Gibbons, Chair of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance. "It proves that large numbers of people will make significant efforts to conserve electricity if innovative, results-driven programs are in place."

"Toronto Hydro should be applauded for offering this innovative program to its customers," said Dr. Franz Hartmann, Co-Executive Director of the Toronto Environmental Alliance. "By reducing electricity use, people save money, cut pollution and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We look forward to an expanded program next year and hope the rest of Canada is ready to adopt this great idea."

Peter Love, Ontario's Chief Energy Conservation Officer, also praised the program. "We will use the lessons learned from the Challenge in the design and rollout of the Ontario Power Authority's province-wide program next summer."

"Summer Challenge 2006 worked because we made it simple -- no enrolment process and plenty of straight-forward information for consumers," said Toronto Hydro Corporation President and CEO David O'Brien. "We think keeping it simple is the right approach and we also know that financial incentives for the customer are an important part of the program. What we're looking at now are the options for expanding the program to include large commercial customers next summer."

Toronto Hydro-Electric System Limited is currently awaiting funding approval that would enable the utility to re-instate Summer Challenge in 2007.

About Toronto Hydro-Electric System Limited
A subsidiary of Toronto Hydro Corporation, Toronto Hydro-Electric System Limited is leading the way to a conservation culture in Ontario with innovative conservation and demand management programs to help its customers reduce electricity use. The largest electricity distributor in Canada, Toronto Hydro-Electric System delivers electricity to approximately 678,000 customers, distributes approximately 20 per cent of the electricity in the province of Ontario and has peak demand of approximately 5000 megawatts.

Incorporated in 1999, Toronto Hydro Corporation is a holding company that wholly-owns and operates three affiliate companies - Toronto Hydro-Electric System Limited; Toronto Hydro Energy Services Inc.; and Toronto Hydro Telecom Inc.

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Toronto Hydro Electric-System
Tanya Bruckmueller
(416) 542-2621 or Cell: (416) 902-9437
Email: tbruckmueller-wilson@torontohydro.com