Jan 11, 2009

Barriers to innovation and change: Ontario Power Authority and "interval metering"

As part of our ongoing exploration of barriers to sustainability, here is an interesting snippet from the ongoing efforts of Ontario Power Authority. OPA has embarked on an ambitious effort of conservation and demand management to reduce the horrendous costs and environmental impacts of bringing on new generating capacity. In the process, they commissioned a number of studies on consumer behavior in the various client sectors. Here is one study that identified very clear barriers to energy conservation, targeted at clients that use "interval metering", or pay for their electricity consumption on an hourly basis at a variable price which fluctuates throughout the day according to supply and demand. Price ‘spikes’ can happen at any time during the day for a wide range of reasons. These clients tend to be larger commercial or industrial clients.

The theory goes that clients will schedule their operations to the time of day when there is a lower price, and avoid times with peak price. But in practice, as revealed in the course of the meeting in 2007 with interval meter customers, there are a number of real barriers to make this work properly. As the meeting notes show,

“...the barriers evolved into both ‘macro barriers’ and ‘micro barriers’:

Macro barriers: those broader issues that fall within the scope of policy makers, regulators and program administrators. Most interval meter customers find these barriers to be complex, confusing and beyond their ability to affect. They preferred to have the confidence that a ‘system’ is working efficiently on their behalf without requiring an understanding of the specific issues. This confidence would be achieved by ensuring that a transparent system is in place which would weigh the true costs and benefits of energy efficiency against supply options.
Micro barriers: those issues faced by customers at the facility level. These barriers exist as a result of “too few resources chasing too many projects” (resources were considered to include people and funding). Overcoming these barriers requires a range of solutions, including assistance from conservation and demand management (CDM) programs that are developed in response to their challenges i.e., incentives, tools, etc. and presented in the ‘customer language’ "

These barriers were specifically identified by "interval metering" customers, but in fact have elements that are much broader than that as we will see in our continued exploration.

1 comment:

suhail said...

Hydro Ottawa has started to install Smart Meters in all new homes to allow for this interval-based electricity management. Prices are cheapest between 10:00 PM and 7:00 A.M.