The insanity of advocating electric home heating

By MPP Toby Barrett
For those who haven’t heard, a leaked Cabinet document outlines plans to phase out or cut back natural gas for home heating as part of a radical climate plan.

Switching from natural gas heat to electricity will cost the average home owner another $2,000 to $3,000 a year, plus up to $4,500 for conversion. Currently, natural gas heats 76 per cent of the homes in Ontario and the emphasis has been on directing homeowners from electricity to natural gas –at least until now. These changes will devastate family budgets – many Ontario families are already struggling to pay their heating bills. And let’s not forget much of Ontario’s electricity generation has recently switched to natural gas as a source of fuel.

The concept of phasing out natural gas, and propane for that matter, has caught the attention of Ontario residents. My office has been flooded with e-mails and calls attacking the insanity of such a proposal. During Question Period, Opposition Leader Patrick Brown called for Kathleen Wynne to come clean with her plans immediately, yet, the Premier was coy holding off on clarifying. Glen Murray said changes will be “completely voluntary”, but Ontarians haven’t had any say to date on their skyrocketing electricity bills.

As Brown questioned the Premier, she denied the plan, insisting he was twisting the facts. Yet, the Globe and Mail released extensive details from a leaked Cabinet document. The document states the province will change the building code “so that new homes and small buildings built in 2030 are not relying on fossil fuels for their heating and cooling,” and this initiative will be expanded to “all buildings before 2050.”

The whole concept hits home with me – my home is heated with electricity. I built my house when government was promoting the concept in the 1980s. This was well before we saw electricity prices increase more than 300 per cent since this government took power. Because I can’t access natural gas, I burn a lot of wood and try to minimize use of electricity to cope with today’s high prices.

Banning natural gas gives Ontario residents little choice other than forced air electric or baseboard heaters. Radiant heating and geothermal are options in newer homes and the jury is out on electric heat pumps – and obviously solar. Again, any electric heat technology is significantly more expensive than heating with natural gas.

The leaked Cabinet document outlines pipe dream targets for electric car use in Ontario. A media comment from the Automotive Parts Industry Association said there is no way production would increase that much, that fast.

Beyond an electric car in the driveway of every multi-vehicle household by 2024,the plan has several other goals according to the Globe and Mail such as: a requirement for natural gas to come from agricultural or waste products, and mandatory energy audits for single-family homes sold in the province. All of this is ushered in by the government’s new cap-and-trade tax and the expectation they are looking for ways to spend it.

Besides driving up the cost of living, this plan will also kill thousands of jobs in the province’s auto and energy sectors.

I’ll let the reader decide. Is banning natural gas heat in our homes in favour of electricity insane or merely idiotic?