Smart Grid Gains Ground in Canada

10/16/2012

Interest in the smart grid and related technologies is high around the world as more utilities deploy smart meters to customers. In Canada, several large implementations have led to more consumer involvement, and a conference is focusing on how consumers can engage with the technology.

SmartGrid Canada, www.sgcanada.org, is a non-profit organization focused on promoting the benefits of a modernized electricity grid. The association is holding the 2012 SmartGrid Canada conference October 15-16 in Toronto, and the main topic of conversation is meant to be the consumer of electricity and how utilities can connect with customers.

In conjunction with the conference, SmartGrid Canada released the results of a study about Canadian consumers and how they want to interact with the smart grid. Conducted in partnership with the Independent Electricity System Operator, www.ieso.ca, the research shows Canadians have largely favorable opinions about the technology.


For instance, Canadians’ awareness levels of smart grid are higher than in the U.S., which SmartGrid says is largely a result of major smart meter deployments in Ontario and British Columbia. Additionally, the favorability rate for smart grid was 68%, while 40% said they had at least some understanding of smart homes.

Among Ontarians, where smart grid has been implemented for many customers, 72% said they have changed their energy use in response to time-of-use rates. Nearly as many customers, 69%, indicated they believe these efforts are having an impact on their bills.

Many consumers are also interested in additional connected technologies that smart grids can enable. For instance, 45% said they already have or would consider purchasing a smart appliance within the next three to five years. Smart appliances can often connect to the smart grid to obtain energy-cost data, and then automatically run when electricity is least expensive. Nearly a third of customers said they already have or would consider participating in a load-control program that would allow their utility or another third party to reduce their air conditioning or water heater use during peak demand.

While many consumers seem eager to embrace smart grid technologies, SmartGrid Canada and Independent Electricity System Operator stress that customers still need to be supplied with more information about the technology and the opportunities it can create.

To that end, utilities are trying innovative ways of bringing information to consumers. Recently, PowerStream, www.powerstream.ca, a municipally owned electricity distribution company in Ontario, announced a new program aimed at making the smart grid a little more fun. The utility’s customers can take part in a contest occurring at FollowtheSmartGridtoWin.com. By checking the site and following posts and tweets, and then re-tweeting information, participants can become eligible to win prizes.

According to Frank Scarpitti, board chair of PowerStream and mayor of the City of Markham, Ont., the adoption of smart grid technologies in Ontario “is revolutionizing the electricity industry not unlike how the introduction of the smartphone revolutionized the telecommunications industry.”

In Canada, consumers are learning more about what the technology can do for them. This trend will no doubt also be apparent around the world as the smart grid becomes more of a household concept.




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