Conservation First: A Renewed Vision for Energy Conservation in Ontario




Conservation is the cleanest and least costly energy resource, and offers consumers a means to reduce their electricity bills. That’s why it is at the forefront of our plan to meet Ontario’s electricity needs. As we review and update our Long-Term Energy Plan, we also want to set out our renewed vision for conservation and discuss how best to achieve it.

Ontario has already made great strides in reducing electricity use. From 2005 to 2011, families and businesses across this province conserved enough to reduce demand by more than 1,900 megawatts, the equivalent of powering more than 600,000 homes. Investments in conservation allowed Ontario to avoid building new capacity that would have cost almost $4 billion, equivalent to four peaking natural gas generation plants.

But we can do much more. The government is committed to expanding and enhancing our conservation efforts. With the current Conservation and Demand Management Framework set to wind down at the end of 2014, the time is right to create a new framework and set a policy of putting conservation first. Ontario’s vision is to invest in conservation first, before new generation, where cost-effective.

This paper describes what we have accomplished over the past several years and looks to how we can leverage innovation and new approaches to build on the foundation we have put in place. It sets out a vision of even broader participation in conservation efforts, supported by important elements such as offering targeted programs to different customers, increasing awareness of incentives, and unleashing innovation and flexibility at the local level.

Individuals, businesses, institutions and organizations across Ontario can take pride in the
conservation savings we’ve achieved to date. We look forward to working together to accomplish
even more for Ontario’s clean, sustainable energy future. I hope that the information and questions
about the future of conservation in Ontario in this paper inspire you and your organization to share
your thoughts and ideas with us.

The Hon. Bob Chiarelli

Minister of Energy


Conservation plays a central role in energy management around the world. The reasons are simple. Saving energy means saving money – for families, businesses, hospitals, schools and other public institutions. Reducing or shifting electricity use avoids the need for new generation as well as transmission, reduces strain on the electricity system and improves the efficiency of the power grid. Conservation provides significant economic and environmental benefits; for every $1 invested in energy efficiency, Ontario has avoided about $2 in costs to the electricity system.

For every $1 invested in energy efficiency, Ontario has avoided about $2 in costs to the electricity system.

Ontario has been working for several years to create a culture of conservation in this province. Although the global economic downturn of the past few years dampened electricity demand in Ontario and elsewhere, a shortfall in capacity may emerge as early as 2018. As a result, conservation investments remain a priority for Ontario and conservation should be the first resource considered when planning for the province’s electricity needs.

Ontario is not alone in aggressively pursuing conservation. Leading jurisdictions around the world are also pursuing ambitious energy efficiency goals:

  • The United States has set a goal to double its energy efficiency by 2030.
  • The European Union has committed to a cut of 20 per cent in its 2020 energy demand.
  • China is targeting a 16 per cent reduction in energy intensity by 2015.
  • Japan aims to cut 10 per cent from electricity consumption by 2030.

(Sources: 2013 U.S. Presidential State of the Union; International Energy Agency, World Energy Outlook 2012)

Conservation and demand management savings can be achieved in a range of ways:

  • Energy efficiency: Using more energy efficient technology that consumes less electricity, such as LED lighting. Building codes and product efficiency standards help improve the energy efficiency of new buildings and appliances.
  • Behavioural changes: Increasing awareness and encouraging different behaviour to reduce energy use, for example through social benchmarking.
  • Demand management: Reducing or shifting consumption away from peak times, using time-of-use pricing with smart meters and programs like Peaksaver PLUS® and Demand Response 3.
  • Load displacement: Reducing load on the grid by enabling customers to improve the efficiency of their energy systems by recovering waste heat or generating electricity required to meet their own needs.

Conservation initiatives must prioritize cost-effectiveness and balance customer benefits with system benefits. Conservation programs can motivate consumers by raising awareness of opportunities to save money and help the environment. Consumers will use less power or shift usage to other times of the day if they see that it lowers their electricity bills and they will invest in more energy-efficient products if they understand the short and long-term benefits.

Relative Cost of Electricity

Relative Cost of Electricity. Bar Chart. Select image for description.

Source: Ontario Power Authority

Ontario is already benefiting from its aggressive conservation efforts:

  • Between 2006 and 2011, investing $2 billion in conservation allowed Ontario to avoid more than $4 billion in new supply costs.
  • Based on preliminary analysis, between 2005 and 2012, Ontario achieved about 55 per cent of the 2015 demand savings target and almost 60 per cent of the 2015 energy savings target in the Long-Term Energy Plan.
  • In 2011, the most cost-effective year to date, most conservation programs delivered savings at a program cost to consumers of just over three cents per kilowatt-hour and influenced 717 gigawatt hours of verified and sustained annual energy savings.
  • Since 1990, average household electricity consumption has declined by almost 25 per cent, representing about $350 in savings each year for the average household, based on current electricity costs.

(Sources: Ontario Power Authority; Natural Resources Canada; Ontario Energy Board; and Ministry of Energy)

These savings are the result of a wide range of initiatives, including improvements to building codes and product efficiency standards, programs delivered by local distribution companies (LDCs) and provincial agencies, time-of-use rates, and other conservation initiatives.

Electricity Use per Average Household in Ontario (kWh)

Bar chart: Electricity Use per Average Household in Ontario (kWh) for 1990 and 2013. Select image for description.

Sources: Natural Resources Canada and Ontario Energy Board

The government strongly believes that conservation should be the first priority in energy planning. This paper discusses the government’s vision for conservation in Ontario and explores new opportunities and objectives that should be considered in developing a new conservation and demand management framework.

Savings related to conservation and demand management can be measured two ways:

  1. Megawatt (MW) or Demand Savings: A reduction in the total supply of electrical resources needed by Ontario to meet peak demand. Valuable at a time of system peak, when lowering or shifting usage avoids the high costs of using electricity sources designed to meet short-term demand. Peak demand in Ontario on a hot summer day can be more than 25,000 MW.
  2. Megawatt hour (MWh) or Energy Savings: Energy savings that follow from the need to deliver less electricity overall to homes, businesses, and institutions in Ontario. A typical home in Ontario consumes around 10 MWh over one year.


Ontario is a leading North American jurisdiction for conservation and demand management. Conservation is helping families and businesses reduce their electricity bills while contributing to a cleaner environment and a more reliable electricity system.

Ontario’s vision is to invest in conservation first, before new generation, where cost-effective. Recognizing that conservation is a long-term commitment that must be central to our electricity system planning, the Ontario government will continue its leadership in conservation by putting conservation first, inspiring action, providing different tools for different customers, encouraging innovation and leading by example.

Ontario’s vision is to invest in conservation first, before new generation, where cost-effective.

Put Conservation First

Conservation should be the first resource considered in meeting Ontario’s electricity needs. Cost effective conservation brings environmental, economic and system benefits. It makes sense to invest as much to save a megawatt of power as it would cost to generate that same megawatt. When other benefits are factored in – conservation does not involve construction or the industrial processes that generation requires, it saves consumers money and relieves stress on the electricity system – the arguments in its favour become even stronger.

Conservation and generation differ in how their costs are accounted for. Investments in supply are amortized – that is, divided up and spread out – over the expected useful life of the assets that will supply the power. The costs of conservation initiatives are currently accounted for in the year they are incurred, even though savings from such programs can last for 10 to 15 years or more. The cost of conservation could be spread over the life of the investment, as is done with investments in supply. This would lessen short-term rate impacts and provide a more equitable sharing of costs across all ratepayers, current and future, who benefit from the programs. BC Hydro has used this approach since 1990 to smooth the impact of conservation costs on customers’ bills.

The cost of conservation could be spread over the life of the investment, as is done with investments in supply.

Demand response provides an excellent example of leveraging the economic value of conservation. More broadly, demand management initiatives provide price or financial incentives to residential, commercial and industrial users to shift or reduce their electricity usage away from peak periods. As well as benefiting the electricity system, demand response lowers energy costs for consumers and allows businesses to operate more competitively.

As one demand management measure, demand response could help meet regional reliability needs cost-effectively and help to better integrate renewable generation sources coming online. Demand management measures in Ontario include the Ontario Power Authority’s Demand Response 3 program, the Independent Electricity System Operator’s Dispatchable Load initiative, the Industrial Conservation Initiative, and time-of-use rates. These initiatives represent almost 8 per cent of Ontario’s 2012 summer peak. Some jurisdictions, such as California, have set demand response targets.

Innovative demand response could enable faster, regionally targeted deployment, for periods that directly correspond with system needs.

There is potential for Ontario to expand and improve its demand response portfolio. Current demand response programs, for example, must be deployed for minimum blocks of time over broad geographic areas. Innovative demand response could enable faster, regionally targeted deployment, for periods that directly correspond with system needs.

Ontario Electricity Demand: February 28, 2010

Ontario Electricity Demand: February 28, 2010,  Select image for description.
The impact of consumer behaviour on demand is especially evident during the Men’s Hockey finals at the Vancouver Olympics.

Source: Independent Electricity System Operator

Inspiring Action

The electricity system and electricity pricing are complex and confusing to many customers. Both the Auditor General of Ontario and the Commission on the Reform of Ontario Public Services highlighted the need for electricity education. To inspire further action and behavioural changes, Ontario should build consumer awareness of the benefits of conservation and understanding of the electricity system as a whole, including expanding energy awareness in schools. The electricity sector must also better align incentives and tools with consumer needs, including providing access to energy consumption information. These actions would help consumers make more informed decisions.

Better aligning awareness with tools and incentives can include voluntary dynamic pricing approaches, some of which have been explored in a number of U.S. states. Dynamic pricing can build on time-of-use and smart grid infrastructure by pinpointing short time periods of extremely high demand – known as critical peaks – and permitting customers to sign up to receive a financial benefit for shifting their consumption from critical peak to the lowest-demand period, typically overnight. Customers can shift consumption by running appliances and equipment with timers, such as dishwashers, pool pumps, and electric vehicle chargers. The benefit is usually derived from a rebate or a much lower electricity rate during non-peak periods. Dynamic pricing programs work best when they are voluntary, because residential and small business consumers vary in their ability to respond and shift consumption.

Voluntary dynamic pricing programs could provide additional benefits to customers that shift their consumption to low demand periods.

Rating systems for buildings and benchmarking provide examples of how awareness can better drive decisions that result in sustainable savings. Property buyers can end up with high ongoing costs because of the low energy efficiency of the home or business they have purchased. Disclosure of actual energy performance, for example through a rating system, could allow consumers to benchmark the relative energy efficiency of various properties and inform their investment decisions. Building ratings could one day be considered as important as a pre-purchase building inspection.

Rating systems for buildings could allow consumers to benchmark the relative energy efficiency of various properties and inform their investment decisions.

Photo of a thermostat

Smart Meters, Smart Grid, Smart Choices

More than 4.4 million electricity consumers in Ontario are currently billed on a time-of-use basis using data provided by smart meters, which communicate consumption information at regular intervals, at a minimum every hour. The adoption of smart meters enables the development of Ontario’s Smart Grid. Through its use of modern technology, including sensors, wireless communication, automation and computers, the smart grid helps consumers participate more readily in conservation efforts and make more informed decisions, and allows for more distributed and renewable generation sources. It also paves the way for electric vehicle re-charging infrastructure, creative energy storage solutions and “Smart Home” features. Ontario’s early implementation of smart meters and timeof- use pricing has established the province as a leader in smart grid technology.

Providing Different Tools for Different Customers

Closely related to the need to provide the right incentives is the ability to tailor tools to the needs of different customers. Ontario should encourage both the public and private sectors to continue to develop new tools that enable consumers to take full advantage of smart technologies. By establishing incentives and ensuring the regulatory framework supports innovation, Ontario could accelerate the development of cutting-edge solutions for all customers.

Through the Green Button Initiative, Ontario electricity consumers will have secure access to their energy usage information. As a common data standard that adheres to strict privacy rules, the Green Button Initiative allows utilities to work with the private sector to create secure, valueadded apps for download by consumers. Energy apps would have a wide range of uses, such as giving consumers the ability to track and control their home energy usage via smartphone. More than 50 per cent of Ontario consumers already have access to their data in the Green Button format, and pilot programs to develop wide-ranging services and solutions are being developed.

Green Button Initiative

Green Button Initiative infographic. Select image for description.

By enabling a household or business to compare their energy consumption with other similar consumers, social benchmarking increases awareness of energy usage and promotes conservation. Regular energy reports, for example, can be delivered to electricity customers, providing useful energy usage data and a comparison to local conservation leaders. The Ontario Power Authority is working with a number of partner LDCs on a pilot program to test four residential social benchmarking approaches that, where feasible, will adopt the Green Button standard. Pending the success of these pilots, the government could explore expanding social benchmarking and including other sectors.

The government could explore expanding social benchmarking and including other sectors.

Consumers in some jurisdictions can finance conservation investments through their utility bills or other financing alternatives. Initiatives such as on-bill financing for home energy retrofits have strong potential to boost conservation. British Columbia, Manitoba and Nova Scotia allow utilities to offer on-bill financing to residential customers. This eliminates up-front costs for small capital upgrades that can yield major long-term savings. Over time, the savings on the bill from lower energy consumption help offset the repayment of the up-front costs.

Initiatives such as on-bill financing for home energy retrofits have strong potential to boost conservation.

The province could also explore a revolving fund concept to help finance energy efficiency retrofits for residential and business customers. Revolving funds, unlike grants or incentives, self-replenish by using re-payment for subsequent financing. Based on experience in other jurisdictions and sectors, revolving funds can unlock private capital and accelerate growth by demonstrating successful investment strategies in the conservation sector.

The province could also explore a revolving fund concept to help finance energy efficiency retrofits for residential and business customers.

Encouraging Innovation

The current framework was built with the expectation that LDCs should be the face of conservation to their customers. We have seen the value of this approach, and are committed to expanding the role of LDCs in order to better support local needs and innovation. The private sector and broader public sector also contribute significantly to encouraging greater innovation.

The microFIT program has been successful in distributing generation across the grid, which can help offset local power demand. The program could evolve from a generation purchasing program to a net-metering program, where cost-effective, with the generation being used first by the homeowner, before being made available to the grid. A net-metering program could help match generation with local demand, helping reduce local load and related infrastructure needs.

The microFIT program could evolve to a net-metering program, where costeffective, with the generation being used first by the homeowner.

Electricity storage is emerging as another option to help address challenges such as peaking demand, efficiently integrating renewable generation, managing slight variations in output, and resolving congestion and power quality issues that reduce distribution system performance. In the United States, Europe and Asia, demonstration projects are under way, and regulators are opening up traditional markets to storage providers. Like any emerging technology, energy storage must prove that its benefits exceed its costs, including building and operating new infrastructure. Ontario is home to a number of emerging, innovative energy storage companies that are working hard with Ontario utilities to demonstrate various technologies, address their challenges and realize their potential.

Ontario’s early leadership in the use of smart meters has provided significant operational benefits for local distributors. Some LDCs have configured meters to collect consumption information more frequently – for example, every 15 minutes. LDCs will likely begin moving towards real-time interaction between the meter and in-home energy management systems, providing more opportunities for direct benefits to end consumers. For instance, Guelph Hydro has installed Zigbee chips in their smart meters, allowing wireless communication with devices in the home. Some PeaksaverPLUS® implementations are also using these chips for direct communication with PeaksaverPLUS® in-home devices. Building information technology into appliances is expected to pave the way to a smart home future in which devices automatically respond to consumer preferences. LDCs are likely to play a central role in leveraging this and other innovations developed in partnership with the private sector.

Some electrical power is lost to heat as it is transmitted through wires and transformers. Line losses increase exponentially as the system gets busier, making on-peak losses substantially higher than off-peak losses. According to analysis by Navigant Consulting, distribution system losses across Ontario between 2007 and 2011 averaged 4.4 per cent. There are precedents for reductions in losses being considered as conservation, based on improved efficiency of the electricity system. Reducing line losses generally involves upgrading technology and equipment, and it may be appropriate to allow utilities to recover the associated costs. In Alberta, for example, the regulator agreed to allow Enmax Power Corporation to recover its costs from the pool of savings accrued from reducing loss levels.

Reducing line losses generally involves upgrading technology and equipment, and it may be appropriate to allow utilities to recover the associated costs.

Leading by example

The Ontario government as well as broader public sector should continue to play a leadership role in conservation efforts. The government has already achieved significant conservation savings by strengthening the energy efficiency standards for products available to consumers and prescribed in the building code. It has also improved energy efficiency in its own buildings and facilities. There is an opportunity to build on these efforts.

Improving the energy efficiency of products and buildings represents a significant portion of Ontario’s long-term conservation targets. The Ontario Building Code is considered the strongest in Canada in supporting energy efficiency. As well, Ontario regulates the energy efficiency of more products than the federal government or any other province. Ontario intends to continue keeping pace with the top North American jurisdictions in raising the bar for energy efficiency standards. One approach being considered is to automatically adopt leading efficiency standards of other jurisdictions in North America, where it would improve Ontario’s own regulatory process. The Ministry of Energy is also looking at working with other ministries to strengthen the synergies between the building code and product efficiency standards. This could result in both streamlining standards and better aligning the regulations with the province’s conservation goals.

One approach being considered is to automatically adopt leading efficiency standards of other jurisdictions in North America where it would improve Ontario’s own regulatory process.

As part of the government’s new conservation reporting requirement under the Green Energy Act, 2009, all broader public sector organizations, such as hospitals, colleges, universities and school boards, as well as Ontario municipalities, began reporting this year on their annual energy consumption, and, next year, will develop and post five-year conservation plans. Given that conservation lowers operating costs, these organizations have a strong incentive to build robust targets into their plans. Using the energy conservation reports, these organizations and their LDCs should work together to find and leverage conservation opportunities. Going forward, the government will explore requiring them to establish individual targets as part of their conservation plans.

By establishing targets, organizations will be encouraged to pursue energy efficiency improvements that could yield monetary savings. The government will also explore ways to drive conservation among these organizations. For example, the strength of an organization’s conservation plan could be among the considerations when evaluating capital or operating funding requests to the province.

The strength of broader public sector organizations’ conservation plans could be among the considerations when evaluating funding requests to the province.

photo Shoppers Drug Mart

Shoppers Drug Mart (2010-2011)

Shoppers Drug Mart undertook lighting retrofits in 280 stores across Ontario, installing LED freezer strips and LED signage and exterior lighting.

The project resulted in 338 kilowatts (kW) in demand savings and almost 2 million kilowatt hours in energy savings per year. As a result of these investments, Shoppers Drug Mart will save almost $500,000 annually on electricity costs. Typically, for lighting, the saveONenergy RETROFIT PROGRAM provides incentives of about 40 per cent total project cost. At the corporate level, these incentives helped meet the company’s payback-period guidelines of 24 to 36 months.

“For a large corporation like Shoppers, which operates in all regions of Ontario, having a single point of contact like Burlington Hydro to manage all our applications for all our locations, made the entire process move smoother and faster…”

Tammy Smitham, Vice President,

Communications & Corporate Affairs,

Shoppers Drug Mart


Evolution of Conservation Efforts

With the current Conservation and Demand Management framework expiring at the end of 2014, the government is interested in receiving feedback and ideas about proposed innovative new conservation measures as well as the key elements and structure of the next conservation framework. The government has observed challenges as well as successes with the current framework and has received feedback from stakeholders, such as:

  • A fixed multi-year funding framework with fixed targets provides certainty, but cannot be easily adjusted or revised to reflect changing circumstances or pressures at the provincial or local level.
  • Targets created a focus for efforts, but a one-size-fits-all approach does not fully reflect the varying needs and conservation capacity of individual LDCs.
  • LDCs’ influence over program design, operations and how targets were achieved was limited.
  • Innovation was encumbered by approvals and heavy contractual requirements.
  • Program enhancements were slow and not agile in their response to customer or market.
  • Local and regional programs were constrained in their development and approval.

Despite these challenges, conservation and demand management programs have evolved over the past decade. LDCs have developed more experience and capacity to take a larger role in delivering programs to their customers. Conservation programs and options are now more sophisticated and comprehensive than ever, highly cost-effective and deliver lasting energy savings. They are offered across the province, including to First Nation and Métis communities, and cover all sectors (residential, including low-income; commercial and institutional; and industrial).

Building the New Framework

Based on the lessons from the current framework, as well as the government’s commitment to conservation as a first priority, objectives of the new framework should include:

  • Empowering LDCs by giving them more autonomy and programming choice for their customers, with streamlined oversight and reduced administrative burdens. This would enable LDCs to focus more fully on innovation and cost-effectiveness, whether by working alone, with private sector partners or with other LDCs.
  • Establishing clear accountability and mechanisms for meeting the conservation goals in the updated Long-Term Energy Plan.
  • Emphasizing the importance of prudent, efficient and effective conservation expenditures to contribute to the important goal of controlling price increases.
  • Investing in conservation initiatives that balance benefits to consumers with benefits to the electricity system, and ensuring a fair allocation of costs in line with benefits.
  • Maintaining balance, in provincial planning, among various sectors – residential, commercial, and industrial – while recognizing that the value of conservation investments can be higher in some regions than others, due to local conditions
  • Renewing efforts to deepen consumer awareness.
  • Enhancing the role of LDCs in the delivery of conservation programming for Aboriginal communities, and particularly for on-reserve First Nation customers.
  • Leveraging programs and provincial investments to encourage innovation, such as electricity storage and smart grid technologies.
  • Improving conservation program delivery for low-income residential consumers.

Together, these objectives would help unleash and streamline conservation delivery, encourage cost-effectiveness and leverage market forces and partnerships to boost innovation and economies of scale.

Photo: Walnut Hill Farm (March 2012 to August 2012)

Walnut Hill Farm (March 2012 to August 2012)

Walnut Hill Farm, a pork processor in Gads Hill, Ontario retrofitted their operation by installing a new high efficiency refrigeration system, which has more efficient compressors, evaporators and insulated panels throughout the facility.

The project resulted in 7 kW in demand savings and 42,000 kWh in energy savings per year. Walnut Hill Farm’s investment in the new refrigeration system is about $175,000. The business will also receive a saveONenergy RETROFIT PROGRAM incentive of over $5,000 from Hydro One.

“The electricity cost savings we gained by investing in more energy efficient equipment will be used to pay for addition electricity we need for expanding the business”

John Koch, Owner – Farmer,

Walnut Hill Farm

As the government develops a new multi-year conservation framework, input is being sought on these objectives as well as the following areas:

  • Role of TargetsThe Green Energy and Green Economy Act, 2009 made conservation integral and core to LDCs’ regulated tasks and assigned conservation targets which LDCs must meet as a condition of licence. In 2010, the government’s Long-Term Energy Plan set province-wide conservation targets out to 2030. The current framework established four-year (to 2014) demand (MW) and energy (MWh) targets for LDCs, which have helped focus the sector’s attention on conservation. This approach may not adequately take into account differing or changing circumstances of individual utilities, the economy, or the system as a whole. In particular, changes in the supply-demand outlook in the past few years indicate a surplus in baseload generation. Flexibility to adjust both the approach and the timing of targets should be considered going forward.

    Gross Forecast Demand by Sector

    Gross Forecast Demand by Sector. Line Graph showing the forecast for demand, 2013 to 2020, for industrial, residential and commercial sectors.

    Source: Ontario Power Authority

  • Program PortfolioAs Ontario’s conservation efforts continue to evolve, so too will the portfolio of programs and options available to customers. Consumers are more conservation-savvy and interested in energy savings. A wide range of service providers, such as contractors, retailers, LDCs and mobile service providers, offer ways of meeting consumers’ needs. New cost-effective programs leveraging customer and private-sector investments will continue to transform the market to greater energy efficiency.Supporting this transformation will involve, for example, optimizing tools for consumers, allowing a role for the private sector in working with larger customers, bringing new entities into the market to take advantage of innovative energy storage and management technologies, and making greater use of codes and standards.

    Residential Forecast Changes in Energy by End Use, TWh

    Bar chart: Residential Forecast Changes in Energy by End Use, TWh. Select image for description.

    Commercial Forecast Changes in Energy by End Use, TWh

    Bar chart: Commercial Forecast Changes in Energy by End Use, TWh. Select image for description.

    Industrial Forecast Changes in Energy by End Use, TWh

    Industrial Forecast Changes in Energy by End Use, from 2013-2020, in TWh. Bar graph.

    Source: Ontario Power Authority

  • Roles and Responsibilities The current electricity conservation framework in Ontario involves the Ministry of Energy, Ontario Energy Board, Ontario Power Authority, and LDCs.The Ministry sets overall conservation policy and provincial conservation targets based on the advice of the Ontario Power Authority, issues directives to its agencies, regulates product efficiency standards and energy conservation reporting and plans for the broader public sector, and delivers targeted programs such as Municipal Energy Plans.LDCs are responsible for creating, marketing and delivering conservation initiatives directly to their customers. They are also responsible for reporting annually on their results and achieving their conservation targets, which are a condition of their licence.The Ontario Power Authority has planning and reporting functions for province-wide conservation programs and provides marketing, technical and training support for LDC program delivery as well as the evaluation, measurement and verification of program results. In line with these responsibilities, LDCs and the Ontario Power Authority have signed commercial agreements to deliver province-wide conservation programs.The Ontario Energy Board is Ontario’s independent natural gas and electricity utility regulator. It develops and maintains conservation targets as a licence condition for each LDC, reviews and approves their conservation and demand management strategies and regional program plans, and monitors and reports on progress toward LDC targets.In addition, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario is responsible for reporting annually to the Legislature on the progress of activities to reduce and make more efficient use of electricity, natural gas and other fuels, as well as barriers to conservation.In developing a new conservation framework, greater focus could be placed on such elements as market-driven innovation, private-sector involvement and better alignment of economic costs and benefits. Consideration must be given to what oversight model can best work with these and other key objectives.
  • Allocating the CostsThe allocation of conservation costs should align fairly and closely with benefits. The Global Adjustment mechanism – part of the government’s regulation-based cost-recovery approach to conservation, demand management and generation procurement – allocates these costs to all electricity customers. All ratepayers pay such costs either in accordance with their peak or overall consumption. The Global Adjustment may be the most appropriate mechanism for recovery of province-wide program costs, as benefits accrue to the system as a whole. For programs of more local benefit and/or those that directly address regional needs, rate-based cost recovery by LDCs, as approved by the Ontario Energy Board, may be more appropriate. Determining which, if any, programs might more appropriately be available only locally and not province-wide will need consideration. At the level of the individual consumer, those who invest in conservation products and services for their homes, businesses or organizations should pay in line with the economic benefit they receive. In the case of residential consumers, special programs will continue to help those for whom income is a barrier.Targets, roles and programs are important considerations that will shape conservation efforts in the coming years. Both experience and the sector outlook suggest that a range of market mechanisms, working hand-in-hand with consumer awareness and enhanced standards, should play a greater role in achieving conservation. An important aspect of this evolution will be improving the alignment of conservation costs and benefits, as well as giving sector participants greater flexibility to respond to changing market conditions. To that end, new technologies, such as the smart grid and Green Button Initiative, will strongly enhance the ability of the sector to serve consumers more effectively.

    Electricity Savings in Your Home

    Electricity Savings in Your Home. Image of a room with pipes, furnace, freezer, water heater, washer and dryer and descriptions of how to save energy. Select image for description.

    Source: Ontario Power Authority

    Your Insights on Conservation

    Ontario is committed to conservation and demand management as a priority for electricity system planning. The government recognizes that conservation brings a unique combination of economic, reliability, and environmental benefits that make it a competitive, attractive option when balancing energy supply and demand.

    Achieving our long-term commitment to conservation requires us to look both to immediate needs and opportunities, as well as those in the future. Several factors are at play that are likely to put upward pressure on electricity prices over the next several years, including the costs of rebuilding and renewing the electricity system and the supply gap that is likely to emerge toward the end of the current decade. This means that conservation will become increasingly valuable as a resource to drive efficiencies and reduce costs.

    Conservation ideas and technologies are evolving. Meeting our long-term commitment will therefore require strategic approaches and the ability to adapt quickly. Together, foresight and flexibility are needed to allow us to provide best-in-class programs and initiatives. In this document, we have set out a series of possible conservation opportunities, as well as questions that will help to guide discussion on them. We welcome your thoughts and insights as we develop a new streamlined, innovative conservation and demand management framework for Ontario that puts conservation first.




  • How can the government ensure that conservation is the first resource considered to meet energy needs?
  • How can the economic value of conservation be embedded in Ontario’s electricity system?
  • What relative weight should be placed on reduction in demand versus load-shifting from peak demand?


  • What new tools and initiatives will help engage customers in conservation?
  • How can conservation awareness and education be improved to drive greater action on conservation?
  • What opportunities should Ontario explore to help consumers finance energy-efficiency improvements?
  • Through what means (regulatory and/or voluntary) can electricity and natural gas conservation activities be better coordinated?
  • What innovative programs could help capture conservation potential across key sectors (e.g. residential, commercial and industrial)?
  • Which technology and smart grid innovations do you believe could offer the greatest benefit to you, your community and the system as a whole?
  • What role should energy storage play in meeting Ontario’s future energy needs and how should it be valued?


  • What are the top needs of residential, commercial and industrial customers?
  • Are there additional objectives that the government should consider in developing a new framework? If so, what?
  • Is there value in targets and, if so, what type (e.g., fixed, dynamic, directional)?
  • Should government introduce targets for municipalities, hospitals, post-secondary institutions and schools?
  • Should Ontario pursue mandatory energy labelling for commercial/institutional buildings upon sale?
  • What can government do to further encourage the sector and the market to deliver on conservation objectives?
  • What should be the roles and responsibilities of LDCs, natural gas distributors, government agencies and the private sector in meeting Ontario’s conservation goals?
  • How can province-wide conservation program delivery be streamlined and enable a greater role for LDCs?
  • Considering that conservation can benefit the whole system and/or specific regions, how should it be funded?
  • What conservation measures can be implemented to support regional energy needs?