Pilot project aims to reduce hydro costs for Londoners

FILE - London Hydro is running a pilot project to help customers save money on their utility bill. The Canadian Press/Mario Beauregard

An Ontario Energy Board (OEB) pilot project is giving Londoners a chance to save money on their hydro bills.

The OEB is exploring ways to give residential customers greater choice in the price they pay for electricity at different times, and London Hydro has been chosen to run a Regulated Price Plan (RPP) pilot project.

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“We want to experiment and see how customers behave before the regulator looks at making a province-wide program,” said Vinay Sharma, CEO of London Hydro.

“The experiment is for one year, during which time, 66 per cent of the time, the customer will see a reduction in their rates as compared to everybody else,” Sharma said.

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The pilot also aims to give customers the tools they need in order to better understand and manage their electricity use.

“We are experimenting with some technology which we will install in customers homes through which they can control some of their appliances and electrical load, especially if it is during that peak price period,” said Sharma.

Under its pilot, London Hydro is offering two, year-long trial programs designed to enable customers to monitor and understand their consumption better and to provide the convenience of remotely reducing their electricity use.

“[We have designed] smartphone apps, through which customers can control their usage during peak times and hence, save money,” said Sharma.

The first program, called Real Time, will allow selected customers to use a smartphone app to monitor their electricity consumption in real-time and turn off appliances in their homes remotely. These customers will pay prevailing time-of-use prices.

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The second falls under the Critical Peak Pricing (CPP) pilot project. London Hydro will install a device on the electrical panel of selected customers’ homes, which will allow the utility to remotely turn off appliances when demand is forecast to be at its highest. These customers will pay a lower off-peak price but be exposed to a higher price during these times of higher forecast demand. The CPP event only lasts for an hour and customers have the option of overriding the device as needed.

“With refrigeration and even heating systems, you can ride out an hour easily with the heat or cold that is already there. I think people can save,” said Sharma.

Asked about Ontario’s hydro prices, Sharma says, as a society, we’ve chosen to shut down coal and in return, there is some added cost our electricity, but he wouldn’t speak to the politics surrounding the soaring costs.

“I cannot control the political side of the price, but I can give [my customers] the tools to manage it,” said Sharma.

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