Ontario smart meter target met but impact not yet clear, environmental commissioner finds


Gord Miller,
of Ontario
Toronto, ON, Canada — (METERING.COM) — January 6, 2012 – With 97 percent of customers in Ontario having received smart meters by the end of 2010 the installation target can be considered to be achieved but as yet the data is insufficient to assess their conservation impact.

This is according to the province’s environmental commissioner in the latest annual energy conservation progress report, which was released last month.

The report states that by the end of 2010 a total of 4.57 million smart meters had been installed, covering 99 percent of residential customers and 76 percent of the eligible general service (mainly small business) customers. Given that the number of meter accounts fluctuates and the target is constantly moving, the installation target can be considered to be achieved.

At the same time, while the summer 2010 target to have over one million consumers being billed using time-of-use (TOU) pricing was met in September 2010, the June 2011 target of 3.6 million was not met. At that time, 2.8 million consumers were on TOU billing, increasing to just over 3.1 million by the end of August (the latest data available).

However, most of the delays in TOU implementation can be attributed to technical issues uncovered during the extensive testing processes. The commissioner believes that the distributors have worked diligently and made good efforts towards meeting the TOU pricing targets, and that a good balance has been achieved between ensuring technical issues are resolved prior to TOU billing and encouraging TOU implementation.

However, the commissioner is disappointed that data collection and analysis to track the actual reduction in peak demand due to TOU pricing is just beginning. Given that reducing peak demand was the prime driver for introducing smart meters and TOU pricing in the first place, the commissioner would have expected a method of tracking the impact of TOU pricing on consumption patterns to have been in place sooner. Had this been the case, preliminary results could have been evaluated already, enabling potential changes to TOU rates or time periods in order to reduce peak demand.

The report notes that in addition to the project by the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) to compare patterns of electricity consumption by customers across the province before and after TOU billing, the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) is developing a methodology to evaluate the conservation impact of TOU pricing. This is expected to be finalized in time to measure the impact of the 2011 to 2014 conservation programs

In terms of energy conservation initiatives in general, the report states that according to the OPA, in 2010 the reduced peak demand was 1,751.9 MW, against a target of 2,700 MW. However, despite not reaching the target, Ontario’s conservation efforts delivered positive benefits by reducing the need for new generation and saving electricity ratepayers money. Investment of about $1.7 billion in conservation programs from 2006 to 2010 resulted in saving of $3.8 billion in avoided electricity supply costs.

The OPA also has forecast that smart meters and TOU pricing will contribute 409 MW of peak demand savings in Ontario by 2030.