Local electrical utilities are working towards ambitious conservation targets, and will continue to do so in the future. As the customer-connected part of the electricity system, they are uniquely positioned to help support the lifestyle and business changes that sustained conservation depends on.
They now have the ability to deliver a wide range of innovative conservation programs for everyone from individual consumers through to large industrial users. And smart grid-enabled technologies allow for such things as adjustments to in-home energy use at times of peak demand.
In the first half of a current four-year conservation framework, Ontario’s distributors achieved a 3.9 million megawatt-hour reduction in total energy consumption – equivalent to the annual energy use of 390,000 typical homes. They also reduced Ontario’s peak energy demand by more than 250 megawatts – equivalent to close to 10 per cent of Ontario’s total nuclear generating capacity.
Distributors play an important role not only in helping customers use less, but in ensuring that the energy we do continue to use is greener. They connect new green-energy generation and are also increasingly active in the developing and operating their own green energy projects, particularly solar and hydro-electric.
Windsor’s Enwin Utilities has taken advantage of LED technology to reduce the cost of electricity to many neighbourhoods that have been struggling economically. The utility installed 832 LED light bulbs throughout the Ford City area, allowing residents to not only save money on their electricity bills but conserve energy as well. Enwin donated the light bulbs, trained the volunteers, and educated the neighbourhood about energy efficient lighting. Enwin is also assisting the City of Windsor with its streetlight conversion program that will involve the replacement of 23,000 high pressure sodium fixtures with LED technology saving the City millions of dollars in energy and maintenance costs over the useful life of the assets.
Burlington Hydro has leveraged a provincial conservation program to reduce the cost of operating the city’s five major indoor ice rinks. The refrigeration systems of these rinks were originally designed to maintain high quality ice conditions as warmer temperatures set in each spring, summer, and fall. The result was a system that operated inefficiently during the winter, when temperatures are naturally colder. Burlington Hydro retrofitted the systems with floating head pressure controls, to alleviate this problem and allow for greater control. The change has reduced the cost of energy for the City of Burlington by more than $50,000 a year.
Vending machines for non-perishable foods present some unique conservation challenges. Yes, they use electricity much like traditional refrigerators. But often it’s not the vending machine owner that’s paying for the electricity – it’s the variety store owner, or the owner of the establishment in which the vending machine resides, who is paying. Greater Sudbury Hydro has taken an educational approach to motivating shop owners to install specialized vending machine power controllers to reduce their costs and save energy.
Greater Sudbury Hydro recently partnered with Ecotagious Inc., an EDA commercial member, on a conservation pilot called Energy Insights. A test group of customers received information on how they use electricity, how their usage compares to similar households in the community, plus personalized tips on ways they can save energy and money. Results saw an average of over three percent energy savings among participants over the course of the winter, which persisted through spring. While that may sound modest, similar results province-wide would result in savings of more than $50 million a year. This project is now being rolled out by Greater Sudbury Hydro and several other Ontario utilities to focus on high users of electricity.
Enersource, the local electrical utility in Mississauga, is working with the municipal government to upgrade all of its 49,000 street lights to LED. The LED street lights not only provide whiter light, they use less energy. And, because they last much longer than the standard high pressure sodium lights, they dramatically reduce maintenance costs as well.
Hydro Ottawa once again took to the streets in 2014 to bring energy-savings tools to its customers’ doors. The utility sent the trained summer student “pit crew” door-to-door on a “no appointment, no problem” mission. They installed and programmed in-home energy displays and provided tutorials on using them, as well as offering other conservation and customer-service information. More than 700 customers took advantage of this offer.
Guelph Hydro is one example of an increasing number of local electrical utilities that are not only supporting renewable energy projects, but also generating power themselves. Its achievements include:
- Generating 122,662 kilowatt hours of electricity from the company’s own solar facility and another 4,029 kilowatt hours from solar panels on top of a transformer station.
- Connecting more than 250 customer-owned roof-top and ground-mounted solar facilities. These have the potential to feed more than 8,000 kilowatts into Ontario’s power grid.
- Recognizing that rooftop solar panels can be a safety hazard for emergency personnel, such as firefighters, Guelph Hydro trains firefighters and other first responders on how to reduce the risk of electrical shock when responding to a fire or other emergency.
Thunder Bay Hydro celebrated a milestone event in 2013, when it completed the installation of the sixth rooftop solar panel installation on City of Thunder Bay-owned buildings. The project represents an investment of $4 million completed under Thunder Bay Hydro’s Sustainable Electric Energy Initiative. Over the next 20 years, this project and others will generate income for the City of Thunder Bay through lease payments and dividends.
Peterborough Utilities constructed and operates the Lily Lake Solar Farm – a 10 MW generating station consisting of 20 blocks of solar panels. Power from this facility has been flowing onto the grid for several years now, contributing to the province-wide effort to tip the generation balance more heavily in favour of renewables. The 140 acres on which the panels sit are part of a larger parcel of properties purchased by the utility. The remainder is made up of rural areas and wetlands, where Peterborough has followed best practices on setbacks and undertaken natural restoration.