HOME > PUBLICATIONS > Country Report
In Canada, smart grid design reflects a shift to more efficient network and resource use as systems become more flexible and adaptable to the energy supply and demand characteristics. Policy drivers for smart grid development in Canada vary regionally across Canada with a focus on the integration of renewable energy, grid reliability and resiliency, system efficiency, managing aging infrastructure and enabling customer participation in the electricity system.
Of the $350 billion required in electricity infrastructure investment over the next two decades estimated by the Conference Board of Canada2, the Canadian Electricity Association expects that about 20% of that would be in distribution infrastructure, and about 13% in transmission infrastructure. Most smart grid technologies would fall within the distribution infrastructure category with certain investments in transmission infrastructure, making the estimated investment opportunity to apply smart grid technologies in the order of $70 billion CAD. Spread over two decades that could amount to approximately $3.5 billion annually.
The Canadian transmission network extends over 160,000 kilometres (km) and is characterised by north-south high-voltage power lines and large interconnections between Canada and the United States.
Canada’s electricity distribution industry is largely characterised by public (provincial or municipal) ownership in seven of ten provinces and its three territories. Some provinces and territories feature private ownership of their utility sector such as FortisBC/British Columbia, Nova Scotia Power/EMERA, Northland Utilities, ATCO Electric Yukon/ATCO. At the distribution supply level, cities in Canada generally have municipally owned utilities, such as Toronto Hydro, and Hydro Ottawa in Ontario; EPCOR, Edmonton and ENMAX, Calgary in Alberta; Hydro Sherbrooke in Quebec; and, Summerside Electric in PrinceEdward Island.
Each province and territory in Canada has its own approach to developing smart grid systems reflective of their energy resource base, market and regulatory structure, and policy drivers. Most jurisdictions have recognized benefits to the environment and the economy as major drivers for smart grid development. What differs is their approach to supporting the development of new markets and implementing the nfrastructure to facilitate automated and integrated systems.
Electricity markets in Canada are managed provincially and territorially, and vary across the country.
Provincial governments and authorities hold significant power in determining both how the current electric system is operated, as well as how the future system is planned and developed. They exercise their jurisdiction through provincial crown utilities and regulatory agencies. Each province/territory oversees its electricity market structure, operational system and the electric power generation, ransmission and distribution systems.
Transmission planning is a provincial responsibility, but international power lines fall within the Federal government’s remit. The federal government has regulatory oversight of international electricity trade and international power lines, as well as any designated interprovincial power lines, through the National Energy Board (NEB). Federal government also has responsibility for energy resources on federal crown land, offshore and North of 60°.
The electricity sector is continuing through a significant period of investment as reported by the Canadian Electricity Association5. This investment is in response to many assets reaching their end of life, significant advances in information technology, severe weather events and evolving requirements for the North American integrated grid, to name a few. The utility investment environment for new technologies remains a challenge across much of Canada. The combined influence of regulations and energy markets that were established before smart grid capabilities were considered, on electric utilities that have to uphold high standards of safety and reliability, makes for a challenging market for smart grid companies to enter. Despite this challenge, Canada is adding new smart grid projects every year, hosted by forward-looking utilities.
Given the diversity of Canada’s electricity supply, demand and environmental characteristics, it hosts a range of smart grid focuses as seen across the country. Three major thrusts of activity are intelligent load management, big data and electric vehicle infrastructure.
The provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island are host to a number of initiatives in the field of intelligent demand management or intelligent load management. The initiatives make use of the available storage capacity in electric water heaters and electric space heating systems to shift when electricity is consumed, in order to balance wind generation capacity and provide emergency reserve services. Each of these projects requires a new form of partnership with customers and an effective engagement approach. Highlights from the Maritime region include:
Canada’s flagship demonstration in intelligent load management is the PowerShift Atlantic6 project. Two virtual power plants provide a continuous balancing service for wind power in the region, and provide a contingency reserve to the regional systems. This project was implemented by New Brunswick Power, Nova Scotia Power, Maritime Electric and Saint John Energy, in collaboration with the University of New Brunswick and various Canadian and American companies. With a total budget of $32 million CAD over a 5 year implementation period, it was the largest smart grid emonstration project in Canada.
The city of Summerside in Prince Edward Island offers its “Heat for Less Now!”electric heating program powered by off-peak wind generation. The project, managed by Summerside Electric, has installed over 500 water and space heaters which act as thermal storage of wind energy. This program provides heating for less than 8 ¢/kWh for participating customers, enabling 30% savings over 5 years when compared to heating with oil. By making use of electricity generated by wind in off-peak times, that was previously sold to neighbouring jurisdictions at a discount, the program offers savings on both electricity and heating bills for designated customers. The $1.6 million CAD pilot project was funded in part by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Green Municipal Fund, and received a Sustainable Community Award in 2013.
Nova Scotia has an opt-in Time-of-Day rate which offers customers with smart appliances savings by consuming more electricity in off-peak times. In its first few years of operation, more than 10,000 smart heaters, capable of responding to price signals, were installed in the province. These intelligent demand management projects demonstrate how it is possible for Canadian utilities to expand their service offerings with new equipment and new pricing options that benefit both customers and the system. New business models premised on initiatives such as these, need to be developed in order to transition from the traditional service of simply providing electricity.
Ontario is one of the first jurisdictions in the world to have deployed smart meters for residential customers and small commercial customers throughout its system, as reported in the ISGAN Case Book “Spotlight on Advanced Metering Infrastructure: AMI Case Book Version 1.0”. This important initiative facilitated a number of follow-on activities to increase the usefulness of the data generated through the advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) for utility businesses and customers.
With almost 80 local distribution companies (LDCs) in the province, Ontario developed a centralized meter data management system named the Meter Data Management Repository (MDM/R). While some utilities are capable of managing their own meter data, the MDM/R system ensures that billing across the province is consistent and accurate, regardless of the service territory. The operation of the MDM/R is placed under the responsibility of the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO). In operation since 2008, 4.5 million smart meters send hourly data to this system, generating a rich data set from which to create value for customers, LDCs and the broader electricity system in the province. Currently, the system processes more than 96 million meter reads and responds to 130- 250 thousand billing requests per day. Additional functionality can be enabled to allow the system to perform more than just a billing function for local distributors.
To this end, the Ontario IESO launched a Foundation Project: Enhancing the Value of Electricity Consumption Data7. The project was designed to investigate how to enhance the value of the data set within Ontario’s Meter Data Management and Repository (MDM/R). Stakeholders have been invited to participate in this initiative by providing input into:
- Defining the information associated with electricity consumption (such as geo-location), that is required to enable analysis of this information;
- The development of rules and protocols for data access by Third Parties.
Extracting value from big data requires some degree of standardization. Launched by the Ontario Ministry of Energy in 2012, in partnership with MaRS Data Catalyst, the “Green Button” standard was introduced in Ontario to allow customers easy access to view and use their meter data. The first derivative of the Green Button program was the “Download My Data (DMD)” standard, which enabled customers to download information about their electricity use from the local distribution company website with a simple click. Currently, this application is available in more than seven utilities which provide electricity to 2.6 million customers in the province. A second “Connect My Data (CMD)”standard was piloted in late 2014. This standard allows customers to authorize and share their own consumption information with a third party, such as an energy service company.
AddEnergie has scaled its charging station network, the VERnetwork8, beyond Quebec boundaries within this past year. The company has become the largest provider of networked charging stations in Canada. AddEnergie is the only Canadian manufacturer-operator of charging stations and manages more than 500 EV charging stations in Quebec, British Columbia, Ontario and New Brunswick. The VERnetwork allows station owners to set a price for charging, but typically the cost is $1 per hour. In association with Ivanhoe Cambridge, Gentec, Rio Tinto Alcan, Sovar and others, AddEnergie deployed another 600 Level 2 EVSEs and 5 DC fast charge stations to demonstrate its Charging Station Central Network Management System (CSNMS™). It uses a cloud based software system that manages the charging, billing, authentication and the smart grid control applications of the installed base of EV charging stations. This project is co-funded by the project partners and Natural Resources Canada’s ecoENERGY Innovation Initiative fund.
On 17 January 2013, the Government of British Columbia announced an investment of $1.3 million for the installation of 13 DC fast charging stations. These stations are located in the corridor called the “West Coast Green Highway” which connects California, Washington State, Oregon and now British Columbia by DC fast charge stations. This project is managed by BC Hydro who will own the charging stations, and received funding from the British Columbia Government’s $14.3 million Clean Energy Vehicle Program.
On 17 June 2013, the governments of Quebec and Vermont announced a partnership for the Quebec-Vermont EV Charging Corridor. Some 40 public charging stations are currently available to electric vehicles drivers in Vermont, through the Drive Electric Vermont network, and nearly 300 are offered in Québec as part of Hydro-Quebec’s Electric Circuit.
A wide range of research studies have been initiated in Quebec to study the impact of EVs on electrical networks. Results available to date indicate that the integration of charging stations for EVs should not have a negative impact on the Hydro-Quebec distribution network, which has been designed for a winter peak caused by electric heating. Despite these outcomes, Hydro-Quebec is taking a proactive and conservative approach to EV integration. The Smart Grid Zone in Boucherville was designed with this purpose in mind, to carefully study the interaction between the network and various EV charging components as part of the $25.5 million CAD project funded by Natural Resources Canada. This Smart Grid Zone hosted Mitsubishi i-MiEV all electric vehicles. Forty five AC Level 1 and 2 charging stations and one DC fast charging station have been installed. The stations in the Smart Grid Zone are managed by the Electric Circuit, with operational support from the Canadian Automobile Association(CAA).
Electric vehicles (EVs) raise an important consideration for utilities to provide the required charging infrastructure. As the number of EVs increase, utilities need to prepare to support the charging of these vehicles. Ontario has hosted an EV Roundtable with local distribution companies to explore steps toward EV integration into the grid. Complementing their EV rebate program offering to customers of between $5,000 and $8,500, Ontario began offering rebates of $1,000 or 50% of the cost of installing home charging systems in January 201310. While similar incentives are offered in Quebec and British Columbia, under the Ontario program customers register their charging location (by postal code), giving utilities greater visibility of incoming loads. The non-profit Plug `N Drive11 programme offers services to customers to help them through the EV charger selection and installation process, provides maps of public charging locations in partnership with CAA, and provides education tools for EVs and EV charging.
The Smart Microgrid Research Network is a major 5-year collaborative strategic project (2010-2015) between academia, industry, and government, funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada12. The network has four key objectives: Smart Grid R&D and Key Technology Development
1.Capacity Building: Train personnel with the requisite skills to transform the Canadian electricity industry, as it embraces new business models, renewable sources of energy and new digital technologies.
2.Research: Support and conduct multidisciplinary research in electrical engineering, planning, regulatory requirements and communication technologies.
3.Knowledge Transfer: Adapt research activities into constructive and appropriately packaged forms of information for consumers, manufacturers and policy makers. 4.Business Development: Translate research into practical products and services for technology companies and electricity utilities.
The Smart Grid Policy Research Network, entitled “Unlocking the potential of smart grids: A partnership to explore policy dimensions” is a three year collaborative effort (2012-2015). This research network brings together researchers from five Canadian universities to investigate the policy and other social dimensions of smart grid development and deployment; and is funded through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
In 2014 Natural Resources Canada identified more than $174 million CAD of government support for research; and demonstration or pilot projects worth more than a nominal total project value of $523 million CAD. These projects were supported from nine different funds: five funds either administered federally or seeded by federal funds and four from funds administered by provincial governments, agencies or provincial corporations. Demonstration and pilot projects provide critical opportunities for technical learning, but most importantly, they provide insight into the non-technical barriers to commercializing, scaling or replicating of solutions.
The figure above shows the level of funding in seven (7) different project categories, with 90% of the funding going toward five categories for storage, demand management, grid monitoring, automation, and microgrid projects. Most of the remaining funding was allocated to electric vehicle (EV) integration projects. Finally, there are a small number of demonstration projects related to smart grid data in the categories of data management and communications, cyber security; and customer-enabling projects such as home energy management systems.
For a more comprehensive overview of smart grid activities in Canada, readers should refer to the Natural Resources Canada, Smart Grid in Canada 2014 report (rapport disponible en français). www.nrcan.gc.ca/smart-grid-in-canada-2014
For a more comprehensive overview of electricity and renewable energy in Canada, readers should refer to the IEA Energy Policies of IEA Countries; Canada 2015 Review (sommaire disponible en français). http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/EnergyPoliciesofIEACountriesCana