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Politics, Policy and Regulation of green tech in Canada

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Stock Market

Two recent announcements out of Ontario demonstrate the extent to which the province is attempting to convince consumers to reduce their energy use and associated greenhouse gas emissions. First the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) approved new electricity pricing pilot projects for three utilities and then the provincial government unveiled a plan to give away 100,000 smart thermostats for free. 

The latter, which which was announced on August 30, is the first major program from the $377 Green Ontario Fund, a not-for-profit agency funded by the province’s carbon credit auctions aimed at providing programs and rebates to help reduce energy costs in homes and businesses. The GreenON Installations Program is open to homeowners in single family, semi-detached, town homes or row homes. They can choose between three smart thermostats: ecobee, Honeywell and Nest. 

Among the key defining characteristics of a smart thermostat is its ability to automatically lower temperature based a certain parameters such as when a room is empty. But they can also be accessed remotely through smartphones and can be adjusted manually. 

Homeowners interested in the program have to pre-register and it’s on a first-come first-serve basis. More information is HERE.

While the GreenON Installations Program will largely affect the heating, cooling and lighting within a household, the OEB’s pilot electricity pricing options will have a broader impact. According to the provincial energy regulator, the various pricing plans are expected to give consumers greater choice in how they are charged for electricity consumption. 

Under an August 24 OEB order, Alectra Utilities, London Hydro and Oshawa PUC Networks Inc. were approved to implement six different pricing formulas. See below for more details on the specific plans. 

All of the new pricing plans will retain the current time of use (TOU) periods, but there will generally be a greater difference between the off- and on-peak prices. The pilot pricing programs will determine how customers respond to “an enriched incentive to shift consumption into lower-priced periods.”

Critical peak pricing (CPP) is the big new addition to these experimental plans. It’s applied on a limited basis and only arrives when electricity demand is very high. Participating customers will be notified in advanced of such an event so they have time to take the action necessary to reduce their own demand. 

More information on the various pricing plans is available in the order HERE.

In addition, the new pricing is expected to remain revenue neutral compared to the current TOU regime. 

“For each pilot price plan that has been approved, the prices have been calculated so as to recover the same revenue as would be expected to be recovered from the RPP time-of-use (TOU) and tiered prices that have been in effect since July 1, 2017,” read the order. 

The pilot pricing programs are as follows: 

  • Enhanced TOU - it increases the differential between off- and on-peak pricing from 2 to 1 to 4 to 1. Mid- to off-peak pricing will change from a ratio of 1.5 to 1 to 3 to 1.
  • Low overnight - from midnight to 6am, electricity will be priced at 2 cents. The off-peak rate will be 6.5 cents. Mid-peak will be 9.2 cents and on-peak will be 18.4 cents. 
  • Variable peak with critical peak price - off-peak will be 4.9 cents. Low on-peak will be 10 cents. Medium on-peak will be 19.9 cents. High on-peak will be 39.8 cents. And critical peak price will be 49.8 cents. There will be a max of 12 CPP events throughout the year. 
  • Quick ramping CPP - off-peak will be 5.5 cents. Mid-peak will be 9.5 cents. On-peak will be 13.2 cents. Quick ramping CPP will be 49.9 cents. There will be 48 quick ramping CPP events. Participants will be equipped with load control devices to response to these events. 
  • Seasonal TOU with CPP - during the shoulder months of September to November and March to May, there will be a flat rate of 7.9 cents. Mid-peak pricing is eliminated. Off-peak will be 5.3 cents. On-peak will be 13.2 cents. CPP will be priced at 26.4 cents. There will be a max of 6 CPP events.
  • Super peak TOU - Off-peak will be 6.3 cents. On-peak will be 9.5 cents. Mid-peak is elimianted. Super peak will be priced at 25.3 cents for summer weekday afternoons. 

Upwards of 18,000 customers from the three utilities will get the opportunity to test new electricity pricing formulas.