Smart meters in apartments inspire conservation

CBC News
July 19, 2005

A company from Almonte, just west of Ottawa, has developed a new smart meter that could help reduce Ontario’s power crunch. The device from Triacta Power Technologies enables owners of apartment buildings to charge each tenant for the exact amount of electricity used.

Ontario’s electricity-generating capacity has been stretched to the limit recently. Hot weather has pushed demand for electricity to record levels twice in the last few weeks. On Monday, the province had to import more than 3,400 MW of power, and the Independent Electricity System Operator cautioned Ontarians to reduce power usage for the rest of the week, or face the possibility of blackouts.

Smart meters, such as the new one from Triacta, can help a surprising amount.

The company’s Jennifer Hassani says the device forces tenants to become responsible energy users because it records the amount of electricity a consumer is using at a given time.

"When each tenant receives a bill for their own electricity use, overall electricity consumption for that building tends to drop anywhere between 15 and 30 per cent," said Hassani.

"For every four buildings you meter, you could literally power another building, so it’s quite significant in terms of energy conservation."

Triacta markets directly to property managers, and other commercial and industrial consumers. The device allows apartment building owners to "break down individual tenant use without having to completely re-wire their buildings," Hassani explained.

Individual homeowners don’t have access to smart meters yet, but the province is planning on phasing them in over the next few years.

"It’s going to take a while to make this transition for the residential level, but certainly, a number of businesses are installing interval meters, or smart meters, and that’s a tool to help them better manage their energy costs," said Terry Young, with the Independent Electricity System Operator.

But groups such as Energy Probe say the real issue is the fixed price of electricity in Ontario, which provides no incentive to cut power use during peak hours. Energy Probe‘s Tom Adams says the province won’t see significant conservation until consumers are made to pay the true cost of electricity.

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