CEA Recommendations

Given the key drivers and promising technology areas discussed throughout the Electric Utility Innovation report, CEA puts forward for consideration the following seven actions that can be taken today to ensure utilities have the mandate and means to invest in innovation moving forward:

Align priorities and goals
While the various drivers and capabilities propelling grid modernization weigh more heavily in some provinces than others, overall there is sufficient commonality that national collaboration is valuable. When it comes to innovation, no one province or country should go it alone.

Provincial regulators can express common priorities and goals through the Canadian Association of Members of Public Utility Tribunals (CAMPUT), and policymakers can do the same through the Council of the Federation’s work towards a National Energy Strategy. In both of these forums, CEA hopes participants will advocate for the need to transform Canada’s electricity infrastructure, markets and technologies through a long-term, sustained commitment to innovation.

Track grid modernization indicators at a national level
To support the alignment of key priorities, Canada must have a national approach to tracking key grid modernization indicators such as the amount of distributed generation connected, the number of electric vehicles sold, the number of smart meters in service, and the number of customers engaged in demand response programs. This data will help proactively identify areas that will require technical and regulatory solutions.

CEA has entered into discussions with Natural Resources Canada’s CanmetENERGY clean energy research program about conducting a regular smart grid metrics survey for Canadian utilities. Such a project would:

    • Create a “dashboard” of national smart grid data;
    • Enable data-backed insights and best practices to emerge;
    • Inform R&D and demonstration funding; and,
    • Provide a useful public reference for discussions with regulators and the public.

CEA and CanmetENERGY continue to explore this initiative, working toward an initial report in late 2015.

Look internationally
Similar to the need to aggregate regional priorities into a national grid modernization program, Canada has the opportunity to learn from other countries that are aggressively pursuing innovation, spurred on by their own domestic drivers (in many cases, emissions reduction commitments, energy security concerns and cost containment).

Through the International Energy Agency’s International Smart Grid Action Network (ISGAN), Canadian regulators, policymakers and utilities have access to the metrics that can serve as signposts of global trends. Canadian participation in the ISGAN program is managed through the CanmetENERGY program; support for these activities should remain strong moving forward.

Pool innovation funding to mitigate risks and spread out rewards
Utilities should maintain a balanced innovation portfolio, which includes funding for projects that address utility-specific needs, enable provincial priorities and/or support a common national vision. To mitigate risk, innovation funding for projects that support provincial or national policy objectives should be fully or partially matched by public funds, largely due to the fact that the benefits resulting from such projects will be more broadly applicable than those of a small-scale, utility-specific demonstration project.

Share lessons learned
Whether funding is pooled or individual utilities take on individual projects, all stakeholders (including regulators, policymakers, utilities and customers) benefit from the key learnings from both successful and failed demonstration projects.

CEA contributes to Natural Resources Canada’s regularly updated Smart Grid in Canada report, which does a good job of collecting information on existing smart grid projects and initiatives. More must be done to identify key learnings and share them broadly. CEA is open to further discussions on how this can best be facilitated.

Lock in knowledge by developing codes and standards
As technologies develop, demonstration projects move forward and lessons learned are distilled, knowledge gained should be formalized into codes and standards that guide utility technical planning, operating practices and work methods.

Participation in standards development requires two increasingly scarce resources: staff time and travel budgets. It is critical, however, that utilities continue to support the development and maintenance of Canada’s system of codes and standards, in partnership with the Standards Council of Canada and the relevant standards development organizations.

Keep customers engaged and informed
Whether a specific technology, process or program targets reliability, safety, environmental sustainability or cost control, at its core, grid modernization is about protecting and improving the value of electricity service. It is critical to communicate this to customers early and often.

The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO) has produced a customer-friendly report titled Smart from Sunrise to Sunset: A Primer on Ontario’s Evolving Electricity Grid, which is intended to help policymakers and the public alike become more familiar with the concept and potential of the smart grid.53 CEA fully supports public-facing efforts such as this, and applauds the ECO for taking the initiative to drive the dialogue forward in the public sphere.



Read more about CEA’s recommendations in the full Electric Utility Innovation report.

Download the report.