Intelligent Ontario: A post from the road

Kate Rowland | Feb 01, 2010

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For the past week, I've been on the road in Ontario, exploring this province's intelligent utility efforts. Last week, I sat in on Insight's one-day conference, GEA and The Smart Grid Development in Ontario, and this week, I'm attending Spintelligent's Smart Energy Canada conference. Along the way, I spent a morning with Toronto Hydro, exploring this distribution utility's smart metering efforts, and its launch of time-of-use (TOU) billing. It's been an eye-opening week, which I'll be discussing in further detail in the March/April issue of Intelligent Utility magazine. In the meantime, I wanted to share some of the key points in Ontario's remarkable progress.

Ontario has approached smart metering a bit differently than many of its U.S. counterparts in that the provincial government mandated that smart meters be installed province-wide by the end of 2010.Toronto Hydro, for one, has already adopted the TOU rates set by the Ontario Energy Board for many of its customers already smart meter-connected. The rest of the province's Big 6 distribution utilities are quickly following suit, as mandated. Once they're up and running, the small and medium-sized utilities will follow suit. It's tempting, at this point, to reach a lot deeper into the success stories in this province to date, but I've promised to stick to the high points here.

So instead, I thought I'd share a few snippets of what I heard today at Smart Energy Canada, with a promise of more to come in subsequent posts.

"We've actually gone through this once before. It was in the 1970s. At the time it was called distribution automation. It didn't work for economic reasons: the cost benefit wasn't there. This time around, the cost benefits may be in greater alliance than they were before. One caution; in the end, the practicalities are the people who are going to pay for it. Customers must see a very immediate, tangible benefit. If the customers don't see it, it isn't going to happen." Dr. Jan Carr, former CEO, Ontario Power Authority.

"While smart grid has many benefits that will support the greater good, it cannot itself become the mandate. Rather, it is a tool..." Eli Turk, vice president, Canadian Electricity Association.

And this one, which invites comment and discussion on a very basic level: "What is it about the technology that we have the word 'smart'?" Russ Holden, senior advisor, Ontario Energy Board. Stay tuned for much, much more from Ontario.

I look forward to discussing this and other issues with all the players in the emerging intelligent utility. If you'd like to let me know what you think of this article, I encourage you to use the Comment link below. I welcome your insights -- informed dialogue, and an important part of the solution. If you have a story idea for me, please contact me by e-mail at krowland@energycentral.com or by telephone at 720-331-3555.

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