A 70-acre mixed-use development project in London, Ontario, will be a test site for an electricity generation and sharing model known as community net metering. Sifton Properties’ West 5 — now nearing buildout of approximately 2.5 million square feet of commercial and residential space in an array of low-rise to high-rise buildings targeting net-zero energy and water consumption — has been selected to demonstrate the possibilities, working in consort with London Hydro and with the backing of the Ontario government.
“This model is very important in the future of net-zero communities,” says Richard Sifton, president and chief executive officer of Sifton Properties.
The concept is an expansion of Ontario’s net metering program, which was enabled through a 2005 provincial regulation. More than 2,000 individual hydro account holders have agreements to generate on-site renewable power to meet part or all of their household/facility demand requirements, and are also connected to the electricity grid so they can pull or dispatch supply as necessary.
Net metered customers receive credits on their hydro bills for the power they send to the grid. However, until the Ontario government enacted a regulation earlier this year to authorize community net metering demonstration projects, there was no option to allocate those credits to other hydro accounts. The West 5 development will be the first to do so.
“Community net metering allows us to overproduce solar energy on one building, then use that energy in other buildings at West 5,” Sifton explains. “It allows us to continue exploring future opportunities from a community level, not building level. It opens the doors for micro grids, battery storage, high speed bus or car charging.”
As Ontario’s first demonstration project, West 5 is expected to be a learning opportunity for electricity utilities that will also derive insight and data on the environmental and economic impact of renewable energy collectives.
“London Hydro will develop innovative new tools and technology as well as gain valuable experience in installing and operating a microgrid,” predicts Vinay Sharma, the utility’s chief executive officer.
“Net metering innovation harnesses clean, green technology to save taxpayers money — a combination that we all can get behind,” says David Piccini, Ontario Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. “I look forward to seeing the results of this demonstration and what net metering can mean for more projects that support a sustainable future.”