In a report released today, the Ontario Smart Grid Forum has issued a series of recommendations to build on the province's momentum in creating a smarter, more efficient electricity system that delivers direct benefits to consumers and the broader economy.
"Our province has a real head-start in getting the building blocks in place for a smart grid - whether it's through the smart meters now installed in every home, research and development by universities and the private sector, or upgrades to the distribution networks by utilities," said Paul Murphy, Forum Chair and President and CEO of the Independent Electricity System Operator.
"The task moving forward is to ensure that our next steps are co-ordinated, consistent and prudent - ensuring that all the pieces within the smart grid work together effectively and generate the maximum possible benefits for consumers and the province as a whole," he added.
Smart grid refers to the use of information and communications technologies to better manage the production, storage, delivery and consumption of electricity. It enables a two-way flow of information, automates many aspects of grid operation and enables such things as electric vehicles and demand response. Global spending on smart grids is expected to reach $36 billion by 2013,1 reflecting the desire by utilities around the world to ensure their distribution and transmission systems can keep up with the ever-increasing demands being made of them.
"Smart grids expand the opportunities for new consumer products and services," said Shelley Lewis, Chair of the Forum's Corporate Partners Committee and CFO of Summitt Energy. "In many ways, the growth of the smart grid will be determined by what consumers want - whether it's an energy monitor they pick up from a hardware store, a demand response program that pays them to reduce their energy use during peaks, or a solar panel to sell energy back to the grid. Smart grids enable these kinds of consumer options."
The report, "Modernizing Ontario's Electricity System: Next Steps," makes a series of recommendations that focus on removing barriers to smart grid development and taking full advantage of its intended benefits. These recommendations include:
- The Ontario Ministry of Energy should conduct an annual survey to assess consumer interest in smart home technologies and how they are influencing consumer behaviour
- An economic development task force should be established to capitalize on the innovation, commercialization and job creation potential of Ontario'ss smart grid investments
- The Ontario Ministry of Transportation should track electric vehicle registration and provide this information to utilities to help them ensure that local networks can support the increased demand for electricity
- The IESO and the Ontario Power Authority, in partnership with others, should develop a framework to promote the deployment of energy storage within distribution networks where it is cost-effective
- The Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner should track all smart-grid related complaints regarding the use of personal electricity consumption information
- The electricity industry should develop a test-bed environment for companies to assess whether their products and services are compatible with Ontario's distribution networks
- Industry should move toward greater standardization to ensure that all technologies can work together effectively, and keep Ontario in step with broader international developments, drawing from the work currently being done through the Canadian National Committee of the International Electrotechnical Commission
Smart grid development incorporates public investments in infrastructure to increase the efficiency of the grid and accommodate new supply within distribution networks. These expenditures have been factored into the Ontario government's Long-Term Energy Plan forecasts and will be subject to review by the Ontario Energy Board. It is anticipated that these public investments will spur additional investments in R&D and product development by the private sector; consumer purchases of in-home smart appliances, devices, and electric vehicles; the adoption of commercial and industrial building automation systems; and other emerging technologies. Together, these investments will work to build the smart grid and stimulate further economic growth.
"Over the last number of years, our industry has developed an abundance of innovative solutions and proven expertise in smart grid applications and technologies. This is an extremely valuable commodity in the world economy," said Jatin Nathwani, Ontario Research Chair in Public Policy and Sustainable Energy Management at the University of Waterloo. "Our hope is that Ontario can effectively leverage this advantage to create high-value jobs and private sector investment in this province."
The Ontario Smart Grid Forum comprises members of Ontario's utility sector, industry associations, public agencies, and universities. Its work is supported by the Corporate Partners Committee, which represents private sector organizations active in the smart grid space - including, electric car makers, retailers, energy management companies, systems integrators and equipment manufacturers.
A copy of the report is available on the IESO website at www.ieso.ca/smartgridreport. A backgrounder about the report recommendations can be found at www.ieso.ca/smartgridbkgdr
1 Pike Research, Press Release: "Global Smart Grid Investment to Peak at $35.8 Billion in 2013" June 29, 2009.