Natural gas expansion project celebrated in rural community in Perth East

Perth-Wellington MPP Matthew Rae (Photo by Ryan Drury)

In Brunner on October 3, Perth-Wellington MPP Matthew Rae welcomed Provincial Energy Minister Todd Smith, along with Perth East Mayor Rhonda Ehgoetz and Enbridge Gas representatives for a natural gas expansion announcement.

Brunner was part of Phase 2 of the province’s plan to expand natural gas coverage, and Minister Smith says the benefits will positively impact many different customers.

“A lot of those customers are farmers, and they can save themselves a lot of money by making the switch to natural gas instead of costlier and less efficient sources like propane and other home heating fuels,” Smith said.

Smith adds that the demand for expansion was so high, a Phase 3 of natural gas expansion will be launched soon.

“So the public consultation on that is gonna be beginning in the next couple of months, and we’ll put together that new Phase 3 plan. In the meantime, we still have a lot of projects that were awarded in Phase 2 that will be undergoing construction,” Smith shared.

Additionally, Minister Smith notes that these projects are not done with tax dollars.

“It’s actually a program that we developed with Enbridge and Epcor, our two natural gas providers in the province, to put that $1 charge on existing customer’s bills. That money gets pooled and then goes into a pot,” added Smith.

At that point, the Ontario Board of Energy uses a profitability index to determine where the best value is regarding natural gas installations and expansions.

Last summer, the government announced $814,000 in funding to connect about 44 households to natural gas in Brunner, and 16 customers are now connected at the time of writing.

“Through Phase 1 and 2 of Ontario’s Natural Gas Expansion Program, more than $360 million was allocated to expand access to families and businesses in 59 communities across the province,” an official release from Matthew Rae’s office stated. “Phase 2 of the Natural Gas Expansion Program will allocate more than $234 million to support 28 new natural gas expansion projects, which are expected to be underway by the end of 2025. Two expansion projects under Phase 2 will directly benefit Indigenous communities, specifically the Red Rock First Nation and the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte First Nation.”

Rae says this expansion into Brunner and communities like it will be a welcome change, especially for farmers.

“It lowers the cost for residents but it also lowers the costs for farmers and grain operators. When you dry corn at the end of the year, you’re using propane, it can cost a lot of money. If you can hook it up to natural gas, it significantly reduces the cost to the grain farmer and the processor,” Rae said.

The hookups also benefit other types of businesses, like Country Cousins, where Rae hosted his announcement in Brunner.

“Vast majority of energy resources are more expensive, so they’re saving on their monthly bills already with the natural gas and it helps lower emissions overall, as well, because it’s a cleaner source of energy compared to others in the market,” added Rae.

In terms of the newly announced Phase 3 of the natural gas expansion, Rae says he’s excited to help bring more affordable natural gas to other areas of his riding.

“I look forward to when the minister and the stakeholders and municipalities announce that window for applications, and I’ll be more than happy to advocate for residents with the minister and to ensure we continue to get some good investments locally in Perth-Wellington,” Rae concluded.

“This is a great example of a collaborative economic development project that will result in long-term energy savings for our residents. We thank the provincial government, specifically the Minister of Energy, for their leadership, the MPP’s office for their continued support and Enbridge Gas for spearheading the installation of the needed infrastructure. We look forward to further expansions of this essential service within Perth East,” added Perth East Mayor, Rhonda Ehgoetz.

Provincial Minister of Energy, Todd Smith, delivers remarks at Country Cousins in Brunner regarding the natural gas expansion that has come to that community in Perth East. October 3, 2022 (Photo by Ryan Drury)