In 2006, Toronto Hydro developed "Get Smart Toronto,” a multi-year, integrated communication strategy that used a phased approach for its AMI smart meter and time-of-use (TOU) rollout. In recognition of the key role that the consumer plays in a successful implementation of the smart grid, Toronto Hydro embarked on a series of educational programs, where customers were made aware of the smart meter and TOU initiative using a variety of communications, some of which were tested with customers through various pilots.
Launching off an extensive customer educational program, Toronto Hydro started mass deployment of AMI meters in 2006, and currently operates more than 593,000 AMI meters with a full deployment of 697,000 meters to be completed. Most recently, in May 2009, Toronto Hydro announced that the first 10,000 of its customers would make the switch to TOU rates beginning June 2009. In June 2009 another 30,000 customers received the TOU billing communication package. Remaining customers will transition to TOU rates over the next 12 months.
Those selected for TOU billing will have had a smart meter that has been passing data at hourly intervals to Toronto Hydro systems for at least one year. These customers have been notified of their pending transition to TOU rates. All Toronto Hydro customers who have a smart meter that communicates hourly data to Toronto Hydro systems, including those who are not yet on TOU rates, can register online at www.torontohydro.com/tou, where they will be able to see up-to-date information about how much electricity their household is using by the hour, and the corresponding TOU rates for on-peak, mid-peak and off-peak times. Customers can use the website as a tool to help manage costs by following tips to move electricity usage to off-peak periods, or by lowering their consumption during peak periods.
Toronto Hydro used an integrated marketing and public relations approach to educate customers in preparation for the new grid and TOU. The campaign has run for more than three years and has included direct mail, automated telephone blasts, email and print publications, media relations and events from a lobby co-hosted by government. Early messages were ones of time-shifting readiness and expectation setting for customers who would experience a less than 5 minute interruption when their meter was changed with the option to have notice, be home or schedule the interruption if Toronto Hydro’s planned time wasn’t convenient. Customers were given print and online tools with tips, coupons for energy conserving products and awareness education. Field employees were asked to input to communications tactics as their frontline perspective was helpful in understanding customer issues. Their input and unique perspective led to the creation of the telephone messaging system and a card left with the customer to allow the customer to request a knock at the door before power was interrupted for the meter change in the event that they needed a few more minutes of power to best prepare for the outage.