Province offers incentive for thermostat control, energy-saving investments

Last updated on Jun 01, 23

Posted on Jun 01, 23

4 min read

The hot weather has likely prompted a few of us to crank up the air conditioner. If you’re OK with having the province put its hand on the dial, it could be worth a few dollars.

The Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) has a new program that provides a financial incentive for allowing it to remotely adjust your thermostat at times. The goal is to throttle back at times of peak demand.

As a bonus, households can lower their electricity bills, says the IESO, which is the government organization that coordinates the electricity grid in Ontario.

“We plan the electricity grid for the province of Ontario. We look at it from a resource of supply or generation side, and what the electricity demand in the province will be looking into the future up to 20 years, and then work with the system planners for that to ensure that we can actually meet what that electricity demand is,” said Tam Wagner, the director of energy efficiency at the IESO.

Households can join the IESO’s newly announced Peak Perk program. Households with an eligible smart thermostat operating a central air or heat pump system can opt into the program, where, during times of peak power usage, the program will automatically adjust the household’s thermostat by two to four degrees Celsius to reduce power consumption for up to three hours.

The program is designed so that the household maintains control, said Wagner. Households can opt out of the peak perk event by turning their thermostats back to their original setting without impacting their placement in the program.

There will be up to ten peak perk events between June and September. Once an event ends, the thermostat will return to its original setting.

Wagner said peak energy usage in the summer typically happens in the late afternoon and early evening on weeknights during particularly hot weather, when the air conditioning load is high.

Adjustments will not take place on holidays or weekends, she said.

For signing up, participants will receive a $75 prepaid Mastercard, and a $20 prepaid Mastercard for every year they stay in the program.

“Our government is launching the new Peak Perks program to help families save money by saving energy, as part of the government’s $342 million expansion of Ontario’s energy-efficiency programs,” said Ontario Energy Minister Todd Smith in a statement.

Wagner said that the IESO is aiming for 120,000 smart thermostats to be enrolled in the Peak Perks program, and staff are hoping the measures  will reduce peak demand province-wide by 125 megawatts (MW) by 2025.

Businesses can sign up for the IESO’s newly introduced custom retrofit program.

This is a new stream in the IESO’s already-established retrofit program. The traditional retrofit program has pre-established incentives and projects that business owners can select from.

“What we were hearing is that businesses are looking for something more holistic; being able to look at more custom measures,” said Wagner. “So us introducing the new custom stream of the retrofit program is us being responsive to that feedback and being able to provide more opportunities for businesses to participate in energy efficiency.”

The custom retrofit program will cover up to 50 per cent of the cost of the projects. The incentive is based on overall energy savings, rather than set rebates for pre-approved equipment options.

Wagner said that the customized program is open to businesses of any size, however, smaller business owners may find the pre-selected stream to be easier, as business owners will need to calculate the energy savings of their custom projects.

“The benefit of our prescriptive program is it’s simple. It’s basically pick from a list, if you can upgrade your technology to this equipment or what have you. We’ve already done all the analysis associated with it, figured out the energy savings. So that gives you the more simple path,” said Wagner.

Whereas, in the custom stream, business owners will need to calculate and measure energy savings of their projects.

“The incentive rate is based on kilowatt or kilowatt hour savings, whichever is greater.”

The organization has a specific stream for greenhouses for its retrofit program.  This program is available for commonly used lighting, controls and other equipment used by the greenhouse sector.

To apply to any of the retrofit programs, Wagner says to visit The organization has service providers available who can help with the application process, she said.

“Peak Perks and our other new energy efficiency programs will also help meet the province’s emerging electricity system needs by providing annual electricity savings equivalent to powering approximately 130,000 homes every year and reduce costs for consumers by over $650 million by 2025,” said Smith.

All together, Wagner says she and her team believe the suite of programs will save 285 MW across the province during peak times.

Wagner said the programs are important for the community as an opportunity for people to participate in the province’s decarbonization process and to do their part to save electricity.

“It’s really around being able to give back. When we look at decarbonization, it’s a global challenge and [this is an] opportunity for each of us to play a role in this.”

“What we’ve really looked at doing is empower the consumers and providing them with a path. Whether you’re a residential consumer or business consumer, to be able to contribute to the needs of the electricity system, but also being able to further support your business or further support your home and your comfort, as well as being able to manage your electricity use.”

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