October 10, 2005

peakSAVER will cut power to central A/C units to reduce consumption, emissions

Ontario's hottest summer on record may be best remembered for its sweltering heat, but it also made the record books for smog alerts, electricity conservation appeals and higher electricity prices. In an effort to reverse the cycle of increasing pollution and rising electricity consumption sparked by extreme weather conditions, Toronto Hydro launched PeakSAVER, a showcase electricity load management program that will help the utility reduce the amount of power used by residential and commercial central air conditioners in Toronto.

The system uses the PeakSAVER switch, a wireless technology already installed in 5.5 million homes and businesses across the U.S., including in major urban centres such as Chicago and southern California. The switch, which Toronto Hydro will install next to participating customers' central air conditioning units, will allow the utility to slow down air conditioning cycles temporarily during peak consumption periods, thereby reducing the amount of electricity used by the power-hungry equipment. While the device will produce only a negligible, temporary temperature change of 1 degree C or less at the end of a three- or four-hour cycle-period, it will help Toronto Hydro reduce air pollution and the need to supplement peak demand with expensive electricity sources.

For the initial phase of the program, Toronto Hydro is targeting 2,000 homes and businesses, but estimates that there are 160,000 central air conditioners in the city that could be connected to the PeakSAVER program. Installations under the PeakSAVER program will begin in October in Toronto. There is no charge to customers for the connection and Toronto Hydro is offering a signing bonus of $25 to qualified customers who commit before June 2006.

"PeakSAVER will enable homeowners and small businesses with central air conditioners to help us reduce system peaks during heat waves without experiencing any discomfort indoors," said Toronto Hydro president and CEO David O'Brien. "Toronto Hydro will be using a tried and true technology already in use in major urban centres across the U.S. In a sense, we will become part of a sophisticated North American load management system. Most importantly, Toronto's PeakSAVER customers will be part of the solution to managing Ontario's electricity shortages."

The showcase program is projected to reduce Toronto's electricity use during peak periods by a total of seven megawatts (MW), which is equivalent to the electricity demand of more than 1,600 homes. A reduction of this magnitude will also help to limit smog-causing emissions and help reduce the average cost of electricity during peak periods.

The PeakSAVER equipment, developed by Cannon Technologies of Minnesota, is being installed by GoodCents Solutions, an Atlanta firm that installs direct load control and other metering equipment for utilities across the U.S., and now Ontario. The 1-877-487-8574 call centre for the Ontario program will be based in GoodCents' Atlanta headquarters, taking advantage of the established infrastructure and expertise gained from serving millions of U.S. customers.

Toronto Hydro is a member of powerWISE, a three-year initiative through which six of Ontario's largest local electricity distribution companies are co-operatively delivering over $70 million worth of energy conservation programs. Other powerWISE utilities, including Enersource Hydro Mississauga, Horizon Utilities, PowerStream, Hydro Ottawa and Veridian Connections are developing plans to launch PeakSAVER in the areas they serve later in 2005 and early 2006.

Air conditioners are a major contributor to record electricity peaks during heat waves. The Greater Toronto Area alone experienced a total of 57 smog days as of September 16, 2005 compared with 34 smog days for all of 2004, and southern and southeastern Ontario remained under an unprecedented smog advisory during the first week of October. Unseasonably warm weather, together with a flow of polluted air from the U.S. were cited as contributing factors.

"The summer of 2005 has been a wake-up call. Higher electricity consumption results in increased cost and poor air quality. It is simply unsustainable," stated Ontario's Chief Energy Conservation Officer, Peter Love of Ontario Power Authority. "Toronto Hydro has brought an innovative, proven device to the marketplace that will help reduce consumption in the city. Programs like PeakSAVER are needed to help address Ontario's electricity shortages, and it provides a solid environmental benefit," he added.

In other powerWISE activities, the member utilities have introduced a new Business Incentive Program. Enersource Hydro Mississauga, Horizon Utilities, Hydro Ottawa, PowerStream and Toronto Hydro will offer industrial, commercial and institutional (IC&I) customers the opportunity to receive up to $50,000 in electricity conservation incentive funding for approved projects that result in measurable peak kilowatt-hour (kW) reductions. PowerStream will offer the Business Incentive Program to its customers later in 2005. Subject to regulatory approval, Veridian Connections plans to offer the program as well.

"The powerWISE Business Incentive Program encourages customers to participate in retrofit programs that will have a lasting effect on their energy loads and consumption," said Rosemarie Leclair, acting president and CEO of Hydro Ottawa.

More information is available on the powerWISE Web site, www.powerwise.ca.

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