Upgrade, evolution or revolution: Canada's perspective
Canada's challenging geography and climate and its outdated energy infrastructure make smart initiatives a necessary investment, but an evolutionary one.
As a country, Canada has risen to the challenge and is at the forefront of the evolution in smart technologies. Government has been right behind the smart initiative. It has enacted provincial regulation to enable deployment, funding and the achievement of energy conservation targets. Looking ahead, multi-province and/or federal legislation and regulation are needed to guarantee Canada-wide adoption.
For now, P&U companies are attempting to pass on the costs of their smart infrastructures to customers. This allows for few value-creation opportunities. However, some are entering into partnerships with other companies to capitalize on smart technologies that provide innovative value-adding services that will enable customers to choose and interactively manage how they consume energy.
Initially, the rollout of smart technologies was hindered by skeptical and reluctant customers and concerns about privacy. However, the lure of more affordable and greener energy usage as well as the ability to manage consumption, price and related services couldmake customers increasingly savvy and receptive over time.
Canada's evolutionary path towards smart could be accelerated by the development of national technology standards. Open standards, which are yet to get the buy-in of all key players, are beginning to emerge. Canada has allocated a dedicated spectrum for utilities to use for smart grid communications in the 1.8 GHz range, providing a national standard for development.
If the US harmonizes with Canada by also implementing this dedicated spectrum, it would promote interoperability between US and Canadian utilities, and it would promote equipment development in this band by making the market bigger and more attractive for manufacturers.
Smart's impact on P&U
How smart metering and the smart grid infrastructure will impact Canadian power and utilities companies largely depends on where they sit in the value chain.
A key issue will be forthcoming regulation to manage investment. Performance improvement, operational efficiency, effective value chain management as well as robust change and risk management are essential to secure Canada's ongoing smart rollout.
Longer term, as P&U companies leverage performance improvement and operational efficiencies, there will be opportunities to capitalize on market and customer data and to offer other value-added smart services.
Canada is more advanced in smart-grid technology than most other nations, spurred on by the vast distances and hostile terrain separating significant generation resources from electricity consumers.
Today, Canada is more advanced in smart grid technology than most other nations, spurred on by the need to connect hydroelectric resources to electricity consumers more efficiently. Leading provinces include Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta.
What is driving smart?
Energy conservation — Though it has no federal policy for the rollout of smart grids and smart meters, Canada aims to reduce its carbon emissions by 17% over 2005 levels by 2020. Smart meters in customers' homes are intrinsic to achieving emission reduction targets in Canadian provinces under energy conservation programs.
Government, by making consumers aware of their energy usage, intends to bring about behavioral change. Improved efficiency awareness will bridge the energy demand gap pending the retirement of ageing infrastructure assets and the take-up of smart grid and grid technology. Customers are seeking to manage their own power consumption to reduce utility bills and carbon footprints.
Reliability — Smart promises greater reliability to Canadians who fear power blackouts on the scale experienced in 2003 when an outage in Ohio cascaded across North America's interconnected grid. Ten million Canadians were impacted. Hopes rest on a smart grid that will detect and isolate outages more quickly and enable rapid restoration of power.
How smart is Canada?
Today, Canada is more advanced in smart grid technology than most other nations, spurred on by the vast distances and hostile terrain separating significant generation resources from electricity consumers.
Canada is implementing smart grid technologies to tackle these cost and geographical challenges. At national and provincial level, it is funding:
- Improved energy efficiency
- Increased access to renewable generation by integrating intermittent renewable energy sources from smaller generators
- Improved grid reliability and operational efficiency
Status of smart meter
rollout across Canada
The nation's Clean Energy Fund is investing nearly US$1 billion over five years in clean energy technologies. Four smart grid projects secured investment from the fund in January 2010. Among them is an initiative between Canada's national radio broadcaster CBC and e-Radio, Inc., to test how a tiny chip, smaller than a postage stamp, can remotely operate a device such as a dishwasher or thermostat via wireless FM frequencies.
In November 2005, the Government of Ontario (Canada's most densely populated province) established a legislative framework for the installation of smart meters in homes and small businesses – the only province to do so. The majority of the targeted number of smart meters have now been installed, with a complete roll out expected by the end of 2011.
The majority of Ontario consumers are being phased onto time of use (ToU) pricing, where the price of electricity depends on when it is used. This has raised some concerns with various groups including the elderly, commercial customers, working couples (who return home at peak hours and do the majority of household chores then) and low income households.
The province of Quebec, which has very high electricity consumption, has seen its government-owned utility, Hydro-Quebec, move ahead with the largest smart meter roll out in Canada and also one of the largest in North America. The roll out comprises installation of 3.8 million meters by 2017. In May 2011, the utility entered into a $350-million deal with Landis+Gyr for provision of an AMI infrastructure and about three million smart meters. The remaining meters will be provided by German-based Elster. 1 "
Hydro-Québec will run three pilot programs between 2011 and 2012 across Boucherville (6,000 meters), Montréal (19,000 meters) and Memphrémagog (2,000 meters). The province-wide roll out will begin in 2012 from the greater Montreal area.2 "
A third provincial smart meter installation project is also underway. BC Hydro, the government-owned utility in British Columbia, has begun installing smart meters for all of its approximately two million customers. The project is expected to be complete by the end of 2012.
Other provinces, such as Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan are investigating possible programs.
1 "Hydro-Quebec to roll out 'smart' meters; Utility in $350-million deal; By 2017, new technology will replace province's electro-magnetic system," Montreal Gazette, 26 May 2011, via Dow Jones Factiva, Copyright © 2011 Montreal Gazette; "Hydro-Québec announces rollout of advanced metering infrastructure," Hydro-Québec press release, www.hydroquebec.com/4d_includes/of_interest/PcAN2011-059.htm, 25 May 2011
2 "Meter rollout," Hydro-Québec website, www.hydroquebec.com/residential/nouveau-compteur/cheminement-a-venir.html, accessed 11 July 2011
3 "BC Hydro website, www.bchydro.com, accessed 12 July 2011.