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Great energy cost savings potential for Ontario greenhouses: IESO study

January 9, 2020 | By Kavita Sabharwal-Chomiuk

Photo: John Lambeth via Pexels

A recent report by the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) shows there is great potential for energy efficiency to help manage increasing electricity demand in the greenhouse sector while reducing costs.

Ontario’s greenhouse sector is the largest in the country, and is set to increase production up to 50 per cent over the next five years. As a result, Ontario’s greenhouse sector is one of the fastest-growing sources of electricity demand in the province. In Kingsville-Leamington, for example, electricity demand is expected to increase by over 200 per cent from 2018 to 2026.

Ontario’s greenhouse electricity consumption is expected to increase 180 per cent to 3.9 TWh by 2024, up from 1.4 TWh in 2018, driven by expansion in the regions of Essex, Chatham-Kent, Norfolk and Niagara. These regions are all considered prime growing regions. In 2019, the IESO requested Hydro One develop a new transmission line from Chatham to Leamington that will increase electricity supply to the area.

Vegetable and fruit greenhouses are the largest driver of growth across the province, but cannabis production is ramping up, as well. In fact, electricity consumption related to cannabis is projected to increase 1,250 per cent over the next five years. This increase is due to the fact that cannabis facilities were only producing product in 10 per cent of the 10.2 million sq. ft. dedicated to cannabis growth in 2018. The remaining facility area is expected to be fully operational by 2023.


The IESO, with support from Enbridge Gas Inc. and the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers, collaborated with Ontario’s agriculture sector to produce the Greenhouse Energy Profile Study. The study summarizes how energy is used across sub-sectors and regions of the province in 2018 and forecasts energy use and savings potential from 2019 to 2024.

“Supporting Ontario’s thriving greenhouse sector is a priority of the IESO,” said Terry Young, the IESO’s vice president of policy, engagement, and innovation. “Providing opportunities for energy efficiency and innovation will complement transmission upgrades by making best use of existing infrastructure. This will help ensure that greenhouses have the reliable and affordable electricity they need to grow.”

“Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers was pleased to participate with the IESO and other stakeholders,” said Nathan Warkentin, an energy and environmental analyst for the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers. “Access to energy infrastructure and competitive rates is a key piece of the puzzle and will enable our members to grow fresh, high quality food year-round and contribute to meeting healthy eating and food security goals across the province.”

The IESO’s Save on Energy Retrofit program can help businesses and industry, including greenhouses, better manage their energy use and reduce monthly electricity costs through incentives to upgrade various equipment and lighting. For example, switching to LED grow lights can result in energy savings of up to 55 per cent, according to the IESO.

Until Feb. 14, innovative indoor agricultural projects that have the potential to cost-effectively reduce electricity demand from facilities during peak periods can also submit a proposal for IESO’s Grid Innovation Fund.

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