How Smart is Ontario’s Smart Metering Plan?

In 2004, the Ontario government committed themselves to installing smart electricity meters in 800,000 Ontario homes by 2007 and in all homes and businesses by 2010. It is doubtful whether this target will prove to be achievable, although pilot projects are being conducted.

How are smart meters being introduced?
In support of the Ontario Government’s smart meter initiative, six of the province’s major urban electricity utilities are working cooperatively under the brand name powerWISE® to implement delivery of smart meters to consumers on a province-wide basis. They are each undertaking smart meter pilot projects that involve installing the meters in customer’s homes in order to test the various technologies that will be required to deliver smart meter services.

The intention of the smart metering policy is to use time-of-day pricing to reduce peak demand by encouraging load shifting, as meeting peak demand during peak season frequently involves reliance on expensive electricity imports. Reducing peak demand could remove the need for new peaking plant and its associated transmission capacity, as well as dampening price volatility in the energy markets. It remains to be seen, however, how much load-shifting can be achieved under the policy as currently conceived.

Consumers were told they would be paying monthly for the new meters, but that the meters would help them to save money in the long-term as their consumption shifted to off-peak hours. However, opinions vary as to the scope for such savings. Given that the meters are likely to cost $400-$500, it is by no means clear that any savings will accrue to consumers. Continue reading “How Smart is Ontario’s Smart Metering Plan?”

Standard Offer Contracts – the Future for Renewable Generation?

The Washington Post recently hailed Ontario’s electricity sector as an innovator, claiming that Ontario “makes clean energy pay”. According to the Post, “the growing chorus of cheerleaders for the program say it is an example of the kind of individual, grass-roots effort that many see as the solution to intractable problems ranging from energy shortages to global warming”.

“We love the idea,” said Keith Stewart, an energy specialist at World Wildlife Fund Canada. “The small stuff adds up. This model should be taken right across North America.”

It sounds ideal, but, looking a little deeper, can Ontario’s draft program of Standard Offer Contracts (PDF warning) for renewable energy – billed as “the most progressive renewable energy program in 20 years in North America” – live up to the hype? There is no lower limit on the size of project eligible to participate, but can it really encourage the proliferation of backyard generation, or farm and community scale projects, as its “cheerleaders” believe? Continue reading “Standard Offer Contracts – the Future for Renewable Generation?”