Canadian utilities energy saving trends
By John McMalcolm
Energy bills are expected to keep rising in certain parts of Canada, and therefore, households and businesses should start taking effective measures to save energy.
Conserving energy does not only result in significant monetary savings; it can also contribute positively to the environment.
Canadians who wish to lower their energy consumption can seek advice from their utility companies. Most of the utility companies in the country offer helpful information and a variety of programs to help their customers save money.
Providing energy saving tips
Canadians need to develop energy-saving habits in order to gain substantial savings.
They can learn how to do this by visiting the websites of their utility companies. Most utilities in Canada offer energy-conservation tips and tools on their websites.
For instance, Ontario utility company Independent Electricity System Operator, or IESO, has a page that offers many year-round and season-specific tips for reducing energy consumption and Manitoba Hydro provides a tool for comparing typical heat and water costs in homes. Some energy-saving measures may involve remodeling work or the purchase of certain devices, while others can be done with just a little extra effort.
Energy-saving programs and products
Another thing that Canadians can do to reduce their energy costs is to participate in the energy-conservation programs that are offered by their utilities.
These programs may be developed by utility companies, state energy authorities or manufacturers of energy-efficient products, and they include demand response programs, heating and cooling incentive programs, appliance rebate programs, fridge buy-back programs and others.
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One of the most effective energy-saving programs that are available in Canada is the peaksaver PLUS program.
Administered by Honeywell, this program is being offered by several Ontario-based utility companies, such as Hydro Ottawa, Burlington Hydro, PowerStream and Horizon Utilities.
It provides customers with tools such as the UtilityPRO programmable thermostat and PowerCost Monitor to enable them to manage their energy consumption more effectively.
Most energy-conservation programs involve the use of certain energy-saving devices, which can range from smart meters to compact fluorescent lights. Some utilities also offer discount coupons for energy-efficient products, as well as rewards for certain amounts of energy saved.
Assistance for low-income energy consumers
State energy boards, utility companies and energy consumer associations in Canada have been working together to develop a number of programs to help low-income households deal with rising energy costs.
One program that low-income households can apply for is the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program, or LEAP. This program consists of three components, namely, emergency financial assistance, targeted energy-conservation programs and special rules for low-income customers.
Some utility companies also offer free energy-saving kits, home energy assessment, energy coaching and energy-efficient upgrades for low-income households.
If they are willing to work with their utility companies, Canadians can learn many effective ways to reduce their energy costs.
By following energy-saving tips, using energy-efficient devices and upgrading their homes or buildings, they may be able to save hundreds or even thousands of dollars every year.
About the Author: John McMalcolm is a freelance writer who writes on a wide range of subjects, including "why businesses should adopt cloud computing", "how a bill alertaffects credit score" and others.
Ofwat allows retailers to raise prices from April
Retailers can recover a portion of excess bad debt by temporarily increasing prices from April 2022, according to an Ofwat statement.
The regulator confirmed its view that levels of bad debt costs across the business retail market are exceeding 2% of non-household revenue, thereby allowing "a temporary increase" in the maximum prices. Adjustments to price caps will apply for a minimum of two years to reduce the step changes in price that customers might experience.
Measures introduced since March 2020 to contain the spread of Covid-19 could lead to retailers facing higher levels of customer bad debt. Retailers’ abilities to respond to this are expected to be constrained by Ofwat strengthening protections for non-household customers during Covid-19 and the presence of price caps.
In April last year, Ofwat committed to provide additional regulatory protection if bad debt costs across the market exceeded 2% of non-household revenue.
Georgina Mills, Business Retail Market Director at Ofwat said: “These decisions aim to protect the interests of non-household customers in the short and longer term, including from the risk of systemic Retailer failure as the business retail market continues to feel the impacts of COVID-19. By implementing market-wide adjustments to price caps, we aim to minimise any additional costs for customers in the shorter term by promoting efficiency and supporting competition.”
There are also three areas where Ofwat has not reached definitive conclusions and is seeking further evidence and views from stakeholders:
- Pooling excess bad debt costs – Ofwat proposes that the recovery of excess bad debt costs is pooled across all non-household customers, via a uniform uplift to price caps.
- Keeping open the option of not pursuing a true up – For example if outturn bad debt costs are not materially higher than the 2% threshold.
- Undertaking the true up – If a 'true up' is required, Ofwat has set out how it expects this to work in practice.
Further consultation on the proposed adjustments to REC price caps can be expected by December.
"While it’s great that regulators are helping the industry deal with bad debt in the wake of the pandemic, raising prices only treats the symptoms. Instead, water companies should head upstream, using customer data to identify and rectify the causes of bad debt, stop it at source and help prevent it from occurring in the first place," she said.
"While recouping costs is a must, water companies shouldn’t just rely on the regulator. Data can help companies segment customers, identify and assist customers that are struggling financially, avoiding penalising the entire customer in tackling the cause of the issue."
United Utilities picks up pipeline award
A race-against-time plumbing job to connect four huge water pipes into the large Haweswater Aqueduct in Cumbria saw United Utilities awarded Utility Project of the Year by Pipeline Industries Guild.
The Hallbank project, near Kendal, was completed within a tight eight-day deadline, in a storm and during the second COVID lockdown last November – and with three hours to spare. Principal construction manager John Dawson said the project helped boost the resilience of water supplies across the North West.
“I think what made us stand out was the scale, the use of future technology and the fact that we were really just one team, working collaboratively for a common goal," he said.
Camus Energy secures $16m funding
Camus Energy, which provides advanced grid management technology, has secured $16 million in a Series A round, led by Park West Asset Management and joined by Congruent Ventures, Wave Capital and other investors, including an investor-owned utility. Camus will leverage the operating capital to expand its grid management software platform to meet growing demand from utilities across North America.
As local utilities look to save money and increase their use of clean energy by tapping into low-cost and low-carbon local resources, Camus' grid management platform provides connectivity between the utility's operations team, its grid-connected equipment and customer devices.