Queen’s Park kicks in cash for ‘power’ pilot project

Queen’s Park kicks in cash for ‘power’ pilot project

PowerStream has teamed up with a private sector tech firm to test out what they’re hoping proves to be a bright idea for saving you money.

And the province has kicked in $1.35 million toward the $3.5-million pilot project, dubbed Advantage Power Pricing, by the local utility company and Ottawa-based Energate Inc.

“It is all about partnerships,” said Steven Del Duca, Vaughan MPP and Minister of Transportation, during a funding announcement Friday morning at PowerStream’s head office in Maple. “This is how we build strong communities. It’s how we build a strong economy. It’s certainly how we promote and continue to build a very strong province.”

The voluntary pricing plan — reportedly the first of its kind in Ontario — will see 1,000 of PowerStream’s residential customers sign up to receive Energate’s Foundation Smart Thermostat and Home Energy Gateways system that will enable them to monitor and adjust their electricity consumption in response to pricing schedules set by the utility.

The hope is that providing customers with electricity pricing information and the technology to adjust their consumption will trigger them to shift their power use from more expensive on-peak periods to lower-demand periods thereby reducing strain on the provincial electricity grid while saving them money.

Energate’s smart thermostat has a conservation setting that allows participants to decide how their heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) system reacts to price changes and together with the mobile app, they provide customers with ongoing awareness of energy prices.

Consumers can then access the lowest time-of-use price for off-peak periods and a variable price during the on-peak period.

The peak price will vary based on expected demand for electricity in Ontario so that participants can choose to pay either the high, medium or low rate for electricity.

They’ll be notified the day before what the price will be for power consumption during the on-peak period on the following day.

The plan also includes a critical peak price during extreme weather events or other unusual system conditions. Customers will always be given notice before such an event.

“The customer can program the thermostat to say, ‘I want you to save money for me based on how high the price is that day,’” Martin Rovers, PowerStream’s director of energy services and solutions, explained. “So what the thermostat can do is if it knows the on-peak price is coming up, it will turn on your air conditioning early, and pre-cool your home. So rather than cooling your home when prices are high it cools it in advance. There’s also hot water heater switches and pool pump switches that all do the same thing.”

Participants are expected to save approximately 10 per cent on their electricity costs. And the price plan has been set up, at least during the pilot period, to ensure it won’t cost you more money.

“We want it, in the first year, to be risk-free for our customers so we’re going to be tracking and saying here’s how much you’ll be paying under the old price plan and the new price plan, and they’ll pay the lower of the two,” Rovers said.

The pilot project is slated to run for six months from May 1 to Oct. 31, 2015 with the ultimate goal of developing a plan for all PowerStream customers as well as other utilities across the province

“We believe in the power of partnerships and we can have no greater partner than the government of Ontario, which really defines the energy sector in this province,” said Brian Bentz, PowerStream’s president and CEO. “We believe, very much, that there is tremendous opportunity in this province to really build, innovate, grow the next generation energy grid and we have the tools to do it.”

Energate launched a similar program in Oklahoma where it is a main supplier to Oklahoma Gas & Electric (OG&E). Based on this successful program, OG&E was named US Utility of the year in 2011.

“It’s very progressive when we look at programs in Ontario specifically involving the utility and the consumer,” Steven Dodds, president and CEO of Energate, said of the Advantage Power Pricing. “Overall, it’s a very, very good program. The collaboration, it’s unique based on what I’ve seen to date.”

Those interested in signing up can call 1-844-952-5291 or go to powerstream.ca/advantagepower.

By Adam Martin-Robbins

Source: Vaughan Citizen

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