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With $37MIL in funding, what do these DER projects aim to achieve?

April 4, 2022 | By Anthony Capkun

Left to right: John Avdoulos, Essex Power Corp.; Surya Panditi, Enel X North America; Todd Smith, Minister of Energy; Susanna Zagar, Ontario Energy Board; Lesley Gallinger, IESO; Carla Y. Nell, IESO; Anthony Haines, Toronto Hydro; Imran Noorani, Peak Power; Janet Taylor, Oshawa Power. Photo: IESO.

April 5, 2022 – Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) and Ontario Energy Board (OEB) recently announced several project collaborations with local electricity distributors and technology companies to “accelerate the adoption of local energy projects to help communities play an increasing role in providing for their own energy needs”.

“We need to facilitate meaningful innovation by utilities and others, and protect consumers, as the energy sector transforms,” said Susanna Zagar, CEO, OEB. “Projects like these […] provide insight into emerging challenges in the sector, as well as the solutions that can tackle those challenges.”

The projects will connect various types of local energy supply to meet electricity needs, such as solar power, battery storage, and the ability of consumers to reduce electricity use when needed. These distributed energy resources (DERs) projects have the potential, says IESO, to contribute to the reliability and sustainability of the grid.

Through $10.6 million in funding from IESO’s Grid Innovation Fund, as well as regulatory support from the OEB’s Innovation Sandbox, these projects aim to contribute to the technical and regulatory advances that will help realize the potential of DER solutions. Project proponents and other partners are investing an additional $26.4 million.


The projects will demonstrate the potential of DER solutions to defer the need for costly electricity infrastructure investments while providing savings to electricity consumers, IESO continues. They will also provide participating businesses with opportunities to develop new sources of revenue and reduce their carbon footprints.

P1. Local businesses supporting grid needs

Partners: Enel X North America and 11 host sites across the province.

This project will demonstrate a streamlined approach to participate, measure, and verify the capability of a group of resources from 11 different businesses across the province to either reduce their electricity use and/or leverage onsite batteries to meet the grid’s real-time energy needs.

It is supported by a $3.3 million investment through IESO’s GIF, as well as regulatory support from OEB’s Innovation Sandbox. In collaboration with multiple businesses across Ontario, Enel X says it will aggregate up to 76.7 MW of energy load across 14 sites that have both behind-the-meter (onsite) battery storage and demand-response capabilities.

Historically, many DERs were excluded due to their size, explains Enel X North America, or could not enter IESO administered markets (IAMs) under current IESO market rules.

“Large energy users in Ontario continue to make significant commitments to reducing emissions, recognizing emissions reductions not only as an opportunity to make operations more sustainable, but an opportunity to manage their energy costs,” said Surya Panditi, head of Enel X North America. “It’s critical that we continue to unlock these businesses’ energy resources to reduce demand on the grid, lower energy costs, improve sustainability, and deliver economic value.”

P2. A local electricity market for Windsor-Essex

Partners: Essex Powerlines, NODES, Essex Energy Corp., Utilismart Corp.

Designing and implementing a real-time, local electricity market for Essex Powerlines customers who can supply electricity or reduce electricity use on-demand to provide services to the local and/or provincial grid. This will help meet growing local and provincial electricity needs in the Leamington area.

“I am very proud that Essex Powerlines and our partners are collaborating with the Ministry of Energy, IESO and OEB, leading the way to define the future of utilities—not only in Ontario, but across North America,” said John Avdoulos, president & CEO, Essex Power Corp. “This initiative will enable power system flexibility, adaptive infrastructure and—most importantly—customer choice, which addresses the many challenges we face.”

The Essex County Local Electricity Market Pilot will build on learnings from a similar initiative in York Region. Through this local electricity market, Essex Powerlines will engage with commercial businesses, manufacturers and local organizations to help reduce local peak demands by directing them to either provide electricity onsite or reduce their electricity use. It will also look at ways to coordinate the use of these resources at both local and provincial grid levels, and the potential to help defer or reduce future transmission needs.

P3. Demonstrating the benefits of simultaneously providing local and provincial capacity

Partners: Toronto Hydro, Power Advisory LLC, Ryerson Centre for Urban Energy.

The participants of this dual 9-MW demand-response program include consumers who can reduce their electricity use during times of high demand. Participating customers will have access to new revenue stream for services to both the local distribution system and the provincial grid. This project will explore the coordination activities between local and provincial grids and quantify customer benefits.

“Bold action is required by the sector to unlock new ways of enabling the flow of electricity,” said Anthony Haines, president & CEO, Toronto Hydro. “We are proud to be working collaboratively with the IESO, OEB, our partners, and Torontonians to power transformation as we build the local interactive grid and utility of the future.”

P4. A campus demonstration of energy resources

Partners: Peak Power Inc., Oshawa Power and Utilities Corp., Ontario Tech University.

This project will develop and execute an energy platform that demonstrates how disparate DERs can improve the reliability of a local grid. Sited at Ontario tech University, the project will use AI-powered cleantech to show how aggregating clean energy assets can reduce energy costs along with carbon emissions.

It will draw on $1.5 million GIF funding, plus an additional $2.9 million from other funding partners. Working with Oshawa Power, Peak Power will draw on their expertise in creating intelligent energy management tools to pool together energy storage, electric vehicles, and solar installations into one single resource. The project aims to show that, when aggregated, these energy assets are a cost-effective means of reducing emissions and improving the reliability of the electricity system.

“Distributed energy is key to our clean energy future, which is why we’re excited to once again team up with Oshawa Power and IESO to show the benefits of aggregated DERs,” said Derek Lim Soo, CEO, Peak Power. “Our project with Oshawa Power will demonstrate how clean energy assets are strongest when grouped together […]”

“We’re thrilled to once again work with Peak Power on a project that serves to amplify the benefits of small, renewable energy assets,” says Ivano Labricciosa, president & CEO, Oshawa Power.

Ontario’s IESO operates the province’s power grid, and works with sector partners and communities to plan and prepare for the province’s electricity needs. OEB is the independent regulator of Ontario’s electricity and natural gas sectors.

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