Power monitor eyeballs energy consumption


Those hot humid dog days of August loom, when a familiar song-and-dance will be replayed. People crank their air conditioners full blast while the government issues pleas and entreaties to conserve energy or else face brown-outs or black-outs, plus a big fat hydro bill at the end of the month.

But it’s hard to conserve electricity when you don’t know how much juice your house is consuming.

There’s a new contraption available to track that. Toronto-based Hydro One Networks is involved in a major deployment of electricity monitors in an effort to provide the incentives and information consumers need to conserve energy. Dubbed the PowerCost monitor, the utility is offering 30,000 units free of charge to its residential customers in northern Ontario on a first-come, first served basis this summer.

“This is the largest deployment of real-time energy feedback technology in the world,” says Danny Tuff, CEO of Blue Line Innovations based in St. Johns, Nfld., which developed the monitor.

The PowerCost monitor is comprised of two components. Homeowners attach a sensor unit to the hydro meter outside their homes, which sends a wireless signal to a display unit that can be placed in the kitchen or anywhere else in the house. As Ontario has two-tiered electricity rates, users must enter two rates and the threshold at which the higher rate kicks in.

According to results of an earlier pilot study, real-time electricity monitors can help homeowners reduce up to 15 per cent of their power consumption, which shaves about $20.00 per month off their hydro bills – just by providing them with information.

The underlying consumer psychology is that people are motivated to reduce their bills, but need to be made aware of how much they’re spending in order to change their behaviour – a critical first step in creating a conservation culture, says David Curtis, director of business transformation at Hydro One.

Over 5,000 units have been snapped up since the bill stuffer announcements went out to customers in early June, he says. “We had to add extra staff to our call center to keep up with demand. The response has been incredible,” says Tuff.

The company is working with a variety of utilities in other jurisdictions that are introducing similar conservation initiatives such as B.C. Hydro, Hydro Qu

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