Eganville – There were a lot of potential happy customers at the announcement about natural gas coming to the village soon but also many who wish the line will be extended further, including local Bonnechere Valley Mayor Jennifer Murphy.
“Could we make it 675 homes to my house?” she asked at the official announcement this week about the expansion. “I’m really jealous. I think it is a great thing for Eganville.”
Ontario Minister of Energy Todd Smith was in the village on Tuesday morning with Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MPP John Yakabuski and a representative from Enbridge Gas. Both men agreed communities which have natural gas do have an advantage over others.
“Where I live outside Belleville, I would love to have natural gas,” Minister Smith said.
“Never give up hope,” suggested Mr. Yakabuski to those in the riding hoping for a similar announcement in their areas. “There is always hope. Everybody wants it.”
However, the topography of Renfrew County and the vast distances in this riding make it challenging, he acknowledged.
The Eganville project, which comes at a cot of $26 million, will supply natural gas to 674 homes, businesses and farms in the village with a potential cost savings. It is part of a $243 million Phase 2 Natural Gas Expansion Program bringing connections to 43 rural, northern and Indigenous communities.
“Thanks to Enbridge for working with us and the people of Eastern Ontario to ensure this expansion will happen,” Mr. Yakabuski said.
He pointed out when settlers were building roads the road started somewhere and kept going. The same is true for natural gas.
“We are expanding this to more and more people,” he said.
Minister Smith said this is the second largest project in phase two and is occurring in the second largest riding in Ontario. He credited Mr. Yakabuski for his hard work for the people in the riding.
“Our government is delivering on a promise to make this more affordable,” he said.
As well, the program is not being funded by taxpayer dollars for the most part but through existing Enbridge customers having a $1 charge on their bill each month. Savings for homeowners on natural gas will be about $1,500 a year and businesses can see a 30 percent reduction in their costs, he said.
“Having access to natural gas is going to be a boom for small and rural communities like this one,” he said. “It is really an economic development tool.”
Minister Smith said there was a lot of competition in Phase 2 and there was a process under the Ontario Profitability Index to see where it made sense to bring in natural gas.
Jean-Benoit Trahan, the director of Eastern Region for Enbridge, said this expansion will bring energy savings while supporting jobs.
“Those that convert to natural gas can save up to 50 percent each year,” he said.
Natural gas also provides a reliable heating source. He explained Eganville was a natural choice for expansion because it is only 15 kilometres from the existing line.
“All the projects need to be feasible,” he said. “We have to make some decisions based on profitability.”
Mayor Murphy said she could not be more pleased for her community. She noted Minister Smith asked her what the big news was in the community when he arrived.
“I said this,” she quipped, noting this will entice businesses to move to Eganville.
Mr. Yakabuski said while this means an awful lot to the people of Eganville there is more work to be done.
“We are continuing to move ahead,” he said. “You will see the benefits of this in the fulness of time. Now other people in the Valley will be saying ‘are we next?’.”
The natural gas line expansion will occur as soon as possible. Minister Smith said some of the projects will begin this year. Mr. Trahan said all projects must be done before 2025 and they will be collaborating with the local community in the expansion.
Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader