April 3, 2006

New law moves Ontario closer to culture of energy conservation

On March 28, 2006, Ontario's Energy Conservation Responsibility Act received Royal Assent, establishing the legislative framework for the installation of smart metering in Ontario homes and small businesses. It also promotes conservation leadership by the public sector.

The government has committed to installing 800,000 smart meters in Ontario homes and businesses by 2007, and ensuring that smart meters are installed in all homes and small businesses by 2010. Smart metering provides consumers with greater control over their energy costs, with the prospect of system-wide savings through reduced demand.

The legislation includes an amendment, introduced as a result of legislative hearings, that will enable individual metering of condominium units through local distribution companies or third-party companies. These entities would be licensed by the Ontario Energy Board. Individual meters would allow condominium owners to control their own energy costs.

"Rather than continuing to bury rising energy costs in ever-escalating condo fees, this legislation allows an important segment of our province's home owners a real say in energy conservation, and their own energy costs," noted Energy Minister Donna Cansfield.

The legislation also sets the framework for an entity that will oversee Ontario's smart metering communications systems and technologies. The responsibilities of this organization could include facilitating the procurement of smart meter systems and the collection and management of data. Local distribution companies would own, install, operate and maintain the new meters.

The legislation gives the government flexibility to determine the best options for the governance, ownership and regulatory structures of the smart metering initiative as it evolves. These options will be the subject of consultations over the next two months.

The second component of the Energy Conservation Responsibility Act is conservation leadership. In addition to promoting leadership by the public sector, provisions of the act are intended to help remove barriers to conservation and strengthen the conservation culture in Ontario. Some highlights of the legislation include:

*Promoting conservation planning: Ministries, agencies and broader public sector organizations can be required to prepare and publish conservation plans on a regular basis. The plans may include reports on energy consumption, proposed conservation measures, and progress on achieving results in energy conservation.

*Demonstrating conservation leadership: To fulfill the government's commitment to removing barriers and promoting opportunities for energy conservation and energy efficiency in its operations, the bill would, for example, require government ministries and agencies to factor in conservation and energy efficiency in their procurement and capital investment decisions.

*Encouraging conservation actions: The legislation will help remove barriers to energy conservation that may exist in current codes or by-laws. It could also require energy efficiency and usage information to be made available when homes are being sold.

*Facilitating conservation co-operation: The legislation will facilitate agreements between the government and other sectors to collaborate on conservation programs. Agreements could involve co-operation on research, conservation benchmarking and improvements to facilities.

"This legislation represents important progress on conservation matters," said Peter Love, Ontario's chief energy conservation officer. "This is an important step in the right direction and we look forward to working with all Ontarians as we continue to build a culture of conservation."

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