Conservation reduces power demand: Study

Tyler Hamilton
Toronto Star
April 4, 2007

Six of Ontario’s largest electric utilities say conservation programs saved enough power last year to take nearly 34,000 homes off the grid.

The utilities – Toronto Hydro, Hydro Ottawa, Horizon Utilities, Veridian Connections, PowerStream and Enersource Hydro Mississauga – represent 1.7 million customers in southern and eastern Ontario.

According to a conservation progress report released yesterday, the utilities collectively reduced power consumption by 302.5 million kilowatt-hours in 2006, a 274 per cent increase over savings achieved in 2005.

Over the past two years, the group has invested $62 million in conservation and demand-management programs, including the "Fridge & Freezer Bounty" developed by Hydro Ottawa and Toronto Hydro’s "Summer Challenge" rebate program and "Peaksaver" air-conditioner return program for residential and business customers.

Last year saw more than 8,000 old fridges and freezers unplugged, 12,671 energy-hogging air conditioners retired, and nearly 79,000 incandescent Christmas light strings replaced with energy-efficient LED lights.

Customers of the big-six utilities also obtained about 1.5 million compact fluorescent light bulbs through various coupon and promotion programs.

Jack Gibbons, chair of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance, called the electricity savings a "defining moment" that proves the potential payback of conservation programs if they are supported by political will and serious investment.

Overall, the kilowatt-hours saved only represent 0.2 per cent of the 158 billion kilowatt-hours Ontarians consumed in 2005.

But Tom Adams, executive direct of Energy Probe, said while the savings may not seem like much, simply halting growth in demand is a sign of progress.

"We’ve got a growing population, a growing economy, so achieving static electricity demand growth is demonstrating improvement in overall efficiency," he said.

Adams added that it’s still early days for many of the programs in place.

"There’s obviously more we can do and the extent to which utilities can take credit for this is a matter of some debate, but overall the trend is positive."

Nearly half of the energy savings last year came through Toronto Hydro.

Chief executive Dave O’Brien has vowed to use conservation as a way to hold the line on electricity demand in Toronto, which typically grows 0.5 per cent to 1 per cent a year.

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