It was a day that three south Bruce County communities have been waiting for. Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson and Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MPP Bill Walker made the announcement today (March 12th) in Kincardine that the EPCOR SB project to bring natural gas to the region of the Municipality of Kincardine, Huron-Kinloss and Arran-Elderslie will go forward.
(L-R) Consultant Mark Roger, MPP Bill Walker, MPP Lisa Thompson, Bruce County Warden Mitch Twolan, Kincardine Mayor Anne Eadie, Arran-Elderslie Mayor Steven Hammel, EPCOR Vice-President Ontario Susannah Robinson
The announcement was made in Kincardine in the Stonehaven Subdivision with several dignitaries in attendance, including Kincardine Mayor Anne Eadie, Bruce County Warden and Huron-Kinloss Mayor Mitch Twolan, and Arran-Elderslie Mayor Steve Hammell.
Under the new Natural Gas Expansion Support Program, the EPCOR Southern Bruce Project will be eligible for up to $27.7 million in funding under a sustainable long-term expansion program that will connect more households than ever possible under the previous program.
The EPCOR SB project will bring natural gas to communities such as Chesley, Paisley, Inverhuron, Tiverton, Kincardine, Lurgan Beach, Point Clark, Ripley and Lucknow, as well as the Bruce Energy Centre.
“This is an important announcement for the region,” Thompson said. “Local residents, farmers, and businesses deserve to have access to affordable natural gas to heat their homes, barns, and facilities. Our government is committed to making life more affordable for Ontario’s hard working families.”
The EPCOR project will be one of the first to access new funds available under the program and is a priority moving forward with a target start date of summer 2019.
“Expanding access to natural gas will help lower energy costs and make our community more attractive for new jobs and businesses,” said Walker. “Families can expect significant savings under this plan. An average residential customer can save between $800 to $2,500 every year when they switch to natural gas from propane, electric heating or oil.”
“This is fantastic news for our Southern Bruce municipalities! Our local MPPs and Ministers Lisa Thompson and Bill Walker have been very supportive of our Southern Bruce initiative,’ said Kincardine Mayor, Anne Eadie. “Our quest to bring Natural Gas to our area has been a long process so we are very excited that EPCOR will finally be able to get shovels in the ground in 2019. Access to Natural Gas will be such a cost savings benefit to many residents and businesses in the area and will also help us attract new businesses and workers that we need to support our economic growth particularly given the Major Component Replacement program by Bruce Power that is moving forward.
Susannah Robinson, Vice President, Ontario, of EPCOR welcomed the announcement. “This is great news for businesses, farms and families in rural Ontario who will now have access to safe, reliable and affordable natural gas. Today’s announcement opens the door to an exciting new chapter for these communities, and EPCOR looks forward to being a part of it.”
Consultant Mark Roger said that it is an historic moment not only for the three communities but for all of Ontario. “When I was brought in on this project about five years ago, everything was at a stalemate. We prepared a business plan that showed with natural gas approximately $25 million would be saved within the region. This model has never been done before. We did requests for proposals (RFPs), went out to the market in Canada and the U.S. and that process was the best possible competitive solution for the communities. That has changed how gas installations will be done in the province. The province needed to step up and it has. The ratepayers and taxpayers in the region will benefit and the rest of the province will take note of what has been done here.”
The Southern Bruce Project will bring natural gas to approximately 12,000 area residences, farms and commercial businesses.
Newly elected Mayor Arran-Elderslie Steve Hammell said the project is a great example of how three communities can work together over the long term to finally reach their goal. “In our community of Tara, we see the benefit of natural gas and the savings benefit so this is a great day for the other communities of Chesley and Paisley as it will spur on more growth for them and bring them up to a level playing field. I also want to thank our previous Mayor Paul Eagleson who worked so hard on this project.”
Thompson added that she was pleased at how quickly Ministers McNaughton and Rickford moved legislation forward to make sure the program moves in a timeline that meets the needs of the three municipalities.
According to Thompson, the Ontario Government is working to lower heating costs, create jobs, and make local businesses more competitive by expanding natural gas in Bruce and Grey Counties. Mayor Anne Eadie confirmed that the biggest ‘fear’ for the municipalities was the timeline and that the provincial government has done “an excellent job”.
“I believe this will also allow the project to expand where it is needed across Ontario,” said Walker. “It’s also great news for northern and rural Ontario as well as our First Nations. The folks in my constituency of Arran-Elderslie are excited about this and we hope to get things moving as quickly as possible. The project will be under the Independent System Operator (ISO) to help expand natural gas across the province. This is a unique example of communities coming together. They pushed the project and province jumped in behind them in support.”
“This was a business model with EPCOR that the three municipalities of Kincardine, Huron-Kinloss and Arran-Elderslie embraced,” added Thompson, “and it lead the way to inspire the legislation that was needed.”
Walker also said he thinks people will be extremely happy to convert to natural gas as it will mean a payback in a short 18 months.
“The Natural Gas Expansion Support Program will help businesses in rural and Northern Ontario, including First Nations, cut energy costs, improve their competitiveness and attract more investment,” said Greg Rickford, Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines. “It will also help expand the natural gas distribution network to households, making life more affordable for families.”