This blog explores changes in the energy industry from an insider’s perspective as it transitions from the old centralized utility model to the new paradigm of distributed generation.
This blog was previously called Inside the Housing Evolution and focused on energy efficient homes. Ultimately, it’s all linked. Soon, every building will have the potential to generate, store, and sell energy. Welcome to the era of the transactive grid – the greatest shift the electricity sector has seen in over 100 years!

February 22, 2011 No Comments

The Only Company that Will Pay You to Use Less of their Product

Last week I joined a group of leading builders in Toronto to discuss what measures Enbridge can take to help homeowners reduce their gas usage.  Enbridge has been actively involved in promoting energy efficiency improvements for years through their Demand Side Management (DSM) programs.  (Coincidentally, I actually worked with Enbridge in developing their DSM program years ago back when I worked as an Energy Consultant.) It’s odd to think that a company would want people to use less of their product, but utilities promote energy efficiency because the cost of bringing new capacity online (like a new generating station) is so expensive that sometimes it can be more cost effective for a utility to reduce demand rather than add capacity.  Also, in Ontario utilities are regulated by the Ontario Energy Board, and are effectively forced to promote energy efficiency.

If you live in Ontario, you’re probably already aware of some of Enbridge’s DSM activities.  You’ve probably received coupons with your bills for cash off if you buy a more energy efficient furnace or a programmable thermostat.  Enbridge has also worked closely with builders for years.  They are currently giving builders packages of energy efficient CFL light bulbs, programmable thermostats and low-flow shower heads.  In another program they are supplying builders with Drain Water Heat Recovery systems to reduce energy use for heating water.

Enbridge invited all of these builders together to discuss how their programs could be improved to better suit builder’s needs.  They also wanted to know what else they could do to get even larger energy efficiency savings.  It was a very interesting discussion, and I think we came up with some thought provoking suggestions.

Some of the suggestions were very practical and easy to implement, like subsidizing high-efficiency furnaces and promoting consumer awareness of the benefits of buying a more energy efficient house.  Other suggestions were more far reaching, and would require Enbridge to redefine themselves as an energy company rather than a gas company.  For example, Enbridge is an expert in putting pipes in the ground.  Why couldn’t Enbridge install copper pipes in the ground for geothermal heating for new communities?  This could be done on a lot by lot basis, like a typical Ground Source Heat Pump, or on a full community basis, called a District Heating System.  If Enbridge did this, purchasers would have the choice of using natural gas or geothermal heat, and they would pay Enbridge for the energy used no matter what the source.  There are some practical obstacles to creating an energy system in this way, but if they could be overcome we could build extremely energy efficient communities.

The meeting was very positive and showed Enbridge’s commitment to energy efficiency.  Urbandale has partnered with Enbridge on a number of projects in the past, such as our Solar Water Heater Program. I’m hoping that some of the ideas that we generated in the meeting will lead to more projects that Urbandale and Enbridge can partner on to increase the energy efficiency of our homes.

Posted by Matthew

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Matthew Sachs

P. Eng. LEED AP

  • COO of Peak Power since July 2016
  • General Manager of Urbandale Construction (May 2008 – Oct 2014)
  • Vice-Chair R-2000 Renewal Committee
  • Member of Energy Star Technical Advisory Committee
  • Greater Ottawa Homebuilders Green Committee
  • Recipient of Canadian Homebuilder’s Association 2009 R-2000 Builder of the Year Award
  • Participant in Natural Resources Canada’s Technology Roadmap for Sustainable Housing
  • Energy Consultant with Marbek Resource Consultants (Feb 2002 – May 2006)

ABOUT PEAK POWER

Peak Power is a Microgrid project development company focused on delivering innovative solutions to offset the most expensive hours of electric demand. We specialize in optimizing the revenue streams from energy storage, advanced building automation, and renewable technologies for customer sited and utility scale projects. Please visit www.peakpowerenergy.com.