Demand for electricity falling in Ontario
Conservation the reason, not poor economy, official says
Energy conservation will curb Ontario’s growth in demand for electricity to the slowest pace in North America over the coming decade, according to government and industry forecasts.
The decelerating appetite for electrical power leaves the province as the only electricity-generating jurisdiction on the continent to forecast negative growth in winter demand and flat growth in summer demand for 2013-2022, according to the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), an industry organization that oversees the intercontinental bulk power system.
“This isn’t because economies aren’t growing and our population is not growing, and it isn’t because people aren’t buying things,” says Chuck Farmer, director of planning policy and approvals with the Ontario Power Authority (OPA).
“It’s really because the growth is being offset by energy efficiency in one form or another and I think that’s quite a success story.”
Alberta, by comparison, leads Canada and the United States with long-term demand growth projections of 3.67 per cent (summer) and 3.57 per cent (winter).
Driven largely by work on the oilsands projects, associated development and population growth, the Alberta forecast calls for a combined demand increase of a whopping 8,500 megawatts (MW) of power over the decade, NERC says in its latest long-term power reliability assessment.
Canada as a whole projects moderate electricity demand growth based on corresponding economic growth, according to the report.
In Ontario, meanwhile, electricity demand growth has declined since reaching a peak in 2005. And now, winter demand has slipped in negative (-0.34 per cent) territory, with summer demand predicted to barely move at 0.07 per cent.
The provincial economy, still recovering from the 2008 global recession, is expected to continue to undergo structural change from an energy-intense industrial process-based economy to one with a larger service sector and specialized or high-value-added manufacturing. Power-wise, that’s resulted in about a 10-per-cent to 14-per-cent drop in industrial sector demand.
On the other hand, the annual rate of population growth over the coming decade is projected at about 1.2 per cent, while the number of Ontario households is expected to increase by about 1.4 per cent a year. That means millions of additional televisions, microwaves, air conditioners and electric toothbrushes.
As well, commercial floor space is growing by about two per cent a year, all of which also will need to be lit, heated, cooled and equipped with laptops and other electronics.
Left alone, demand would rise correspondingly, as it has traditionally. But a key driver pulling in the other direction — and resulting in essentially flat demand growth — is growing energy conservation, aggressively promoted by the provincial government.
From the profusion of energy-efficient lighting, to time-of-use pricing to steadily rising household hydro bills, people are finding reasons to embrace energy saving.
Though the government’s 2011 Long-Term Energy Plan anticipates the province will still require 15,000 MW of new (or refurbished) generating capacity over the next 20 years, that is an estimated 7,100 MW less power than without conservation, or the equivalent of taking 2.4 million homes off the grid.
The provincial plan relies heavily on demand-side management analysis from OPA, which is responsible for longterm electricity planning, conservation and contracting for electricity generated from renewable resources. Its assessments of economic and business indicators, weather trends and actual usage patterns form the basis of the Ontario forecast in the annual NERC report.
For the current Ontario Energy Plan, updated every three years, the OPA presented the plan’s drafters with analysis based on three scenarios — high, medium and low demand growth, each taking into account conservation reductions.
The current plan is based on the medium scenario — moderate growth in the industrial sector, continued growth in the residential, commercial and transportation sectors — and forecasts demand growing moderately (15 per cent) between 2010 and 2030.