A Smarter Grid

Technology is quickly changing how grid operators, like the IESO, manage the electricity system for better reliability and efficiency. The "smart grid" harnesses the power of information technologies to monitor, control, and optimize the usage of the electricity system.

These efforts are designed to:

  • increase efficiency;
  • reduce outages;
  • integrate more renewable generation; and
  • empower consumers to more effectively manage their energy use.
Smart grid: Connecting consumers to the control room.

Smart meters are a key part of the ongoing evolution taking place in the electricity sector. Ontario's early implementation of smart meters started almost 10 years ago and formed the foundation for the development of a provincial smart grid. Almost 5 million smart meters have been implemented in Ontario, bringing many benefits to consumers and their local distribution companies (LDCs).

Smart meters track and capture electricity consumption on an hourly basis. Many Ontarians can now go online to access and view the consumption data collected from their smart meters. This helps them to better understand their energy usage as well as learn new ways to use it more efficiently.

Smart metering also introduces new capabilities by complementing the use of home energy management systems, helping consumers manage their energy use remotely, or facilitating in the future development of micro-generation, embedded storage and use of electric vehicles.

Amongst many other operational benefits, LDCs can also have a more accurate view into the electricity delivered through wires, and can identify where and when an outage has occurred to quickly dispatch crews for repair.

Deeper look at smart meters and the energy information loop

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Here's the path data
takes from your smart
meter to your electricity



Smart meters track electricity consumption information on an hourly basis and the information is sent automatically to local distribution companies. By automating the meter-reading function, smart meters deliver a number of benefits:

  • They support the implementation of time-of-use prices. By time-stamping consumption data, LDCs are able to determine how much electricity was used during off-peak times and how much was consumed during on-peak periods.
  • They help LDCs identify power theft and respond to meter failures and outages more quickly.
  • They provide greater visibility into renewable generation e.g. solar residential rooftop, which will help improve operational efficiencies for LDCs.

From the home, the smart meter puts into play a series of actions: collecting energy use information, verifying its accuracy and processing it for monitoring and billing. In its role as Smart Metering Entity, the IESO is responsible for the central data repository (known as the MDM/R – Meter Data Management and Repository) that manages the consumption data for residential and small business smart meters.

The MDM/R ensures that Ontario's residential and small business consumers have access to the same high standards for effective and accurate smart meter billing information. It provides a province-wide, cost-effective solution and services for the processing, storage and protection of electricity consumption information to be used by Ontario’s 70 local distribution companies for billing their customers.

There are many opportunities to leverage the information in the provincial data repository to support energy planning, conservation programs or new research for system development and energy innovation, for the benefit of Ontario’s consumers and their LDCs.

Energy Transformation Network of Ontario

The Energy Transformation Network of Ontario (formerly, Ontario Smart Grid Forum) includes member organizations from Ontario's utility sector, industry associations, public agencies and universities working together to guide the development of the smart grid in Ontario. Read a series of reports on the grid's evolution in the province.

Grid-LDC Coordination Initiative

As the system operator, the IESO is looking into ways to enhance reliability and efficiency through the coordination of IESO and LDC-controlled resources as well as better understanding the impact and potential for new technologies on the bulk power system. Distributed energy resources are playing an increasing role in addressing local energy needs.

PowerStream, though its POWER.HOUSE project, is studying the potential of distributed energy resources as an alternative to the traditional “wires” solutions. The IESO and PowerStream are working together on a grid/LDC coordination project in order to explore their potential.

The IESO also hosts a forum called, Grid-LDC Interoperability Standing Committee for its members to be informed and engaged on these matters.

Read more about distributed energy resources.

Leveraging a smart grid

The provincial electricity sector has been working to leverage smart grid capabilities across a broad range of applications, including the following key areas.

 Demand response icon (aggregators)

Demand Response refers to the ability of customers to actively respond to price signals and system conditions by adjusting their electricity usage. Smart grid technologies support greater levels of demand response by providing better monitoring, control, and automation of almost all aspects of consumers' energy use. These devices range from smart appliances in the home to sophisticated building control systems. It allows consumers to contribute to grid reliability without affecting their own comfort or convenience.

Demand response can significantly reduce peak demand, particularly on hot summer days. Peak demand decreased by approximately 1,300 MW on a summer day in 2016 – more than enough to power the cities of Hamilton and St. Catharines.

The annual Demand Response Auction is part of the IESO's ongoing efforts to expand Ontario's DR capabilities. Learn more about demand response auction.

 Energy storage icon.

Energy storage can take many forms: from rechargeable batteries in electric vehicles to large facilities that compress and release air to generate electricity. All have the potential to provide flexibility, efficiency and support the integration of renewables like wind and solar. The IESO and other organizations in Ontario's electricity sector are actively exploring ways to take advantage of new storage technologies in the province's power system.

Learn more about energy storage.

 Distribution service icon

Improving distribution service. Local distribution companies are now using automated controls and sensors to quickly detect and isolate outages on the grid and then restore it with far greater speed and efficiency. These technologies also help utilities use their networks more efficiently and incorporate small-scale wind and solar generation onto the grid.

 Smart energy networks icon

Smart energy networks. Ontarians rely on various forms of energy to do everything from heat their homes, to power their cars, and supply hot water. Smart energy networks can help it all flow far more efficiently taking a broader view on how to better meet energy needs to create a more efficient and sustainable energy system. Smart energy networks bring together a number of disciplines including: urban planning, building design, district heating, thermal storage, transportation, and the environment.

 Smart homes icon

Smart homes. Consumers are embracing new home technologies such as Internet or network-connected smart appliances, energy storage and sophisticated home automation systems. These technologies not only afford greater convenience and reliability, they are also accelerating innovation in areas like home entertainment and home security. All together, these investments can provide powerful capabilities that can benefit the entire power grid. 

 Distribution connected generation icon (solar panel)

Distribution-connected generation. More consumers are choosing to produce their own electrical energy, as the costs of solar, combined heat and power, and other emerging technologies continue to fall in price.Smart grid technologies enable local utility companies to integrate these new sources of generation into the system and harness their benefits for reliability and extending the life of utility infrastructure. Read more about distributed energy resources.