Ontario starts second round of Smart Grid Fund

Applications now being accepted for innovative energy technology projects
Monday, July 22, 2013
By Daniel Viola

Article updated Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Ontario’s Smart Grid Fund is currently accepting applications for the program’s second round.

The fund, which began in 2011, has a $50 million purse to help entrepreneurs test, develop and produce the next generation of smart grid technologies. Approved applicants are eligible to receive up to 50 per cent of a project’s costs, up to a total of $4 million. Projects submitted must be pre-commercial but near completion.

To date, the province has doled out $14 million to nine projects. That leaves $36 million for the second round. The application process closes Sept. 6.

The goal of the program is twofold. The Ontario government wants more homeowners and businesses to manage their electricity use via smart meters and connect renewable energy sources to the grid. It also wants to help entrepreneurs get to the next level of their business.

“We are targeting a very niche market in the technology development cycle,” explained Mike Smith, senior advisor of smart grid and network policy for the Ontario government, at a recent industry information session.

According to Smith, the fund has three focus areas:

  • Customer control. The goal is to facilitate access to smart meter data and in-home energy management systems.
  • Power flexibility. This ensures utilities have the information and ability to control input to make efficient use of resources and respond to system conditions in real time.
  • Adoptive infrastructure. This involves accommodating the use of emerging, innovative and energy-saving technology and system control applications.

Enbala is a previous recipient of the fund. The program allowed the company to move to the next stage and ultimately offer its smart grid technology to consumers.

“We knew our technology worked but it is hard to get started in a new market and it is financially draining,” Enbala’s CFO, Ken Scott, told Building Strategies & Sustainability magazine.

Through the Smart Grid Fund, Enbala aims to have 90 heavy electricity users – commercial and industrial properties that have storage ability – connect to its software, which responds to minute by minute changes in electricity voltage on the grid by automatically increasing or decreasing consumption.

“The service that we are providing to the operator is a paid service,” said Scott. “We share that money with the connected load.”

Bringing value to consumers, both residential and commercial, is a major focus of the current round of applications.

“Smart grid (technology) hasn’t been as successful in achieving value for the homeowner,” said Niraj Bhargava, CEO of Energate Inc., whose company (also a previous fund recipient) has developed software to monitor and manage home electricity usage. “We have to find a way (to make) consumers see the value and want the technology as opposed to responding to encouragement from the utility industry.”

Ontario’s 4.7 million smart metres – devices for residents and businesses that track how much and when electricity is used in a building – are an integral part of the smart grid. The metres allow consumers to monitor electricity usage and costs, which vary depending on demand.

The time-of-use pricing promotes electricity consumption during off-peak hours and the utilization of more sustainable and environmentally-friendly sources of electricity. This allows the province to avoid using more harmful sources of energy, like coal-fired plants, due to high demand.

In a statement, Ontario’s Minister of Energy, Bob Chiarelli, said the smart grid projects will give Ontarians improved control over their electricity use and help the province become more energy-efficient.

“We have a real opportunity to build one of the most advanced electricity grids in the world,” he said.

Enbala’s Scott goes so far as to call Ontario a smart grid hub.

“It’s self-seeding and self-sustaining,” he explained, noting that as new businesses start and technologies are developed, like-minded entrepreneurs will flock to the province and help grow the industry.

“Clearly (the fund) is generating a lot of interest,” Scott added. “Companies and individuals are keen to do things that will help the province (and) the planet.”

Daniel Viola is the online editor for Canadian Property Management and Building Strategies & Sustainability magazines. He is also the editor of Property Management Report.

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