Ontario has been building a culture of conservation since 2005 and can be proud of what has been accomplished. According to the Independent Electricity System Operator’s (IESO) 2015 study on Ontario’s conservation efforts, businesses are investing in energy-efficiency upgrades to increase their productivity and residents are choosing to install energy-efficient equipment in their homes, often with the help of Ontario’s suite of residential and business conservation and demand management programs. Between 2005 and 2015, the average monthly household consumption of electricity decreased from more than 800 to about 750 kilowatt-hours (kWh).

Energy efficiency is becoming more of a part of our everyday lives. Between 2006 and 2015, Ontario conserved 13.5 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity. That is equivalent to the electricity used annually by 1.5 million households, or the amount of electricity that powered the cities of London, Kingston, Ottawa, Peterborough and Thunder Bay in 2015. During the same time, the conservation programs delivered by Ontario’s natural gas utilities saved more than 1,700 million cubic meters of natural gas, equivalent to the natural gas used by about 800,000 homes in a year, or taking about 750,000 cars off Ontario’s roads for one year.

Since the 2013 Long-Term Energy Plan (2013 LTEP), the government, its agencies, and electricity and natural gas distributors have been putting Ontario’s Conservation First policy into effect.

Conservation and energy efficiency require a sustained commitment if they are to achieve persistent savings over the long term. Ontario is enhancing its commitment to Conservation First to improve affordability and choice for people, businesses and communities, and to co-ordinate its conservation programs with Ontario’s climate change objectives.

Additionally, the government will help Ontario homes and businesses transition to a low-carbon future by expanding program offerings through the new Green Ontario Fund.

Getting more from conservation

Ontario has an adequate supply of energy. Any additional demand for electricity supply is not expected to appear until the early-to-mid 2020s. In this context, the Province will continue to use conservation programs and improved energy efficiency standards to drive toward its long-term target of saving 30 TWh of electricity in 2032, helping to offset almost all of the forecast growth in electricity demand. The government and its agencies will continue to assess the achievable potential for energy conservation, consider initiatives under Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan, and explore options to enhance the value of our existing investments in conservation.

The IESO is currently conducting a mid-term review of the 2015-2020 Conservation First Framework and the Industrial Accelerator Program for electricity conservation. The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) is conducting a similar review of the Demand Side Management Framework for natural gas programs. These reviews are looking at how the programs are meeting customer needs, distributor budgets and targets for conservation savings, and co-ordination with the Province’s climate change objectives, including Green Ontario Fund programs.

The IESO is also using the mid-term review to look at how conservation programs can better meet the needs of local and regional electricity planning.

Demand response

Demand response programs reward electricity customers for reducing their electricity use when needed. Demand response provides benefits to Ontario’s electricity system by enhancing reliability, as well as reducing system costs and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. An example of demand response is a factory temporarily halting a process, or a group of residential consumers reducing their air conditioning when electricity demand is high.

The IESO has successfully transitioned away from using multi-year contracts to secure demand response, holding an annual competitive auction instead. The demand response auctions held in 2015 and 2016 reduced the cost of obtaining demand response resources by up to 27 per cent when compared to previous contracts. The IESO is now working with industry partners to use demand response to better respond to rapid increases or decreases in electricity demand. Demand response is spurring innovation in new technologies, such as smart thermostats, energy management software and communication technologies.

Through collaborative efforts by the IESO and the Demand Response Working Group, Ontario’s demand response resources have grown significantly above the 2013 LTEP projections, and demand response has become a mature and competitive resource. Demand Response capacity realized each year will depend on system needs and the competitiveness of demand response with other resources.

Ensuring a customer-centred approach

The current conservation frameworks encourage electricity and natural gas distributors to collaborate in providing more efficient programs and a streamlined experience for customers. Such partnerships can offer energy consumers a co-ordinated, one-window approach to help meet their energy management needs. Currently, 46 electricity distributors are involved in joint conservation plans, and electricity distributors are partnering with natural gas distributors to design and develop programs that cover multiple fuels. Partnerships can enable multi-fuel programs to improve customer convenience and expand choice.

Distributors are being encouraged to develop new and innovative programs for their customers. New pilots and programs include Hydro One’s Heat Pump Advantage pilot, a provincewide Business Refrigeration Incentive Program (originally developed by Alectra Utilities), Toronto Hydro’s incentive program for Energy Star pool pumps, and Enbridge Gas Distribution’s School Energy Competition.

For its part, the IESO has launched the first full-scale, pay-for-performance program in North America. The Save on Energy Multi-Distributor Pay-for-Performance Program rewards businesses for improving their overall energy performance over a number of years. Businesses are paid for each kilowatt-hour they conserve, and are given flexibility on how they achieve those savings. Ratepayers benefit as well; participants only have to file a single project application, reducing the administration costs of the program.

Expanding home retrofits

As part of its Climate Change Strategy, Ontario has invested $100 million from its Green Investment Fund to help eligible homeowners who primarily heat with natural gas, oil, propane or wood. They can improve the energy efficiency of their homes, reduce their energy bills and cut GHG emissions by participating in enhanced audit and retrofit programs offered by Enbridge Gas Distribution and Union Gas.

Launched provincewide in October 2016, the program is expected to allow about 37,000 additional homes to be audited and retrofitted by 2019, and cumulatively reduce their lifetime GHG emissions by approximately 1.6 million tonnes.

The Province made additional improvements to the home energy audit and retrofit programs in May 2017. Partnering with Enbridge Gas Distribution and Union Gas, the IESO expanded the program to include electrically-heated homes and added electricity savings measures for all participants. This ‘Whole Home' approach is now providing residential consumers with a co-ordinated, one-window approach to energy efficiency improvements.

Providing choice through information, tools and access to energy data

Ontario is leading the way in helping consumers choose devices and technologies that can give them greater control over their energy use, and help them find opportunities to lower their energy bills.

Smart thermostats

Smart thermostats can be an important piece of technology for homeowners or businesses who want to reduce their heating and cooling costs and carbon footprint. Smart thermostats:

  • Give consumers more information about their energy use;
  • Enable customers to use a smart phone app to remotely control the temperature of their home or small business; and
  • Automatically adjust the temperature to respond to changes in pricing, a customer’s schedule, or to changes in the season.

To standardize incentives for the purchase of smart thermostats and expand their availability across Ontario, the government’s August 2017 direction enables the IESO to design and deliver, with the support of the Green Ontario Fund, a provincewide rebate program for smart thermostats. In addition, the Green Ontario Fund has launched the Greenon Installations program, which provides, on a limited basis and at no cost, a smart thermostat installation and in-home energy review.

Green Button

Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan committed to expanding the Green Button initiative. Green Button Download My Data can give households and businesses easy electronic access to data on their energy and water consumption. Green Button Connect My Data lets households and businesses securely and automatically transfer their own data to applications of their choice. Greater access to information through Green Button will allow consumers to better understand their energy and water usage and use the information to make decisions, such as reducing or shifting their energy use or retrofitting their home or business to improve its energy efficiency. Green Button can also support energy reporting and benchmarking, and create new opportunities for economic development. In the long-term, implementing Green Button provincewide would support the Province’s continued efforts to put conservation first and help drive toward its long-term target of saving 30 TWh of electricity in 2032.

The government is committed to expanding Green Button provincewide and intends to propose legislation that would, if passed, allow Ontario to require electricity and natural gas utilities to implement Green Button Download My Data and Connect My Data. In addition, the government will collaborate with the province’s electricity, natural gas and water utilities to adapt the Green Button standard, update existing guidance documents for LDCs and create new guidance documents for natural gas and water utilities. Guidance documents for water utilities will support those utilities with metering infrastructure to implement Green Button on a voluntary basis.

Figure 17: Green Button Connect my Data

Green Button Connect my Data

Budweiser Gardens uses Event Assist, with information gathered through the Green Button initiative, to help us better understand the hydro usage associated with the size, type and configuration of each event. This has the capability to change how we book events in the future, not only for our building, but within the industry. Working with the team at London Hydro has shown me what a truly professional organization they are from top to bottom.

Gary Turrell, Director of Operations, Budweiser Gardens

Energy benchmarking

The Province’s energy benchmarking and rating initiatives give people and organizations the tools and information they need to understand the energy performance of their homes and businesses, and compare it with similar buildings. They can use this information to manage their usage and costs, and justify investments in energy efficiency. Fifteen local distribution companies (LDCs) have social benchmarking programs in their Conservation and Demand Management Plans; five of them are currently being offered to electricity customers. To promote participation in their residential audits and retrofits, Enbridge Gas Distribution and Union Gas are each including social benchmarking in their outreach and education programs.

Organizations in Ontario’s broader public sector are required to annually report their energy consumption and GHG emissions to the Province and to make that information available to the public. Building on this success, as well as on lessons learned from similar programs in the United States, the government has introduced a requirement for energy and water reporting and benchmarking for large private sector buildings as well.

Starting July 1, 2018, and phased in over three years, owners of large commercial, multi-unit residential and some industrial buildings will be required to annually report their buildings' use of energy and water and their GHG emissions to the Province. Some of that data will be posted on Ontario’s Open Data website every year, so that owners can compare the energy and water usage of their buildings with that of similar facilities, and identify where improvements can be made.

The Climate Change Action Plan envisions providing free energy audits for pre-sale homes in order to include energy ratings in real estate listings. The Province is examining options to deliver a Home Energy Rating and Disclosure program that would improve customer awareness by allowing homebuyers to compare homes by energy rating and encourage uptake of retrofit incentive programs.

Access to energy efficiency financing

The Province is also exploring how to increase access to corporate financing for energy efficiency projects. The Investor Confidence Project gives financiers the information and tools they need to determine the viability of energy efficiency projects. The Project was established by the Environmental Defense Fund in the United States in 2013. The MaRS Advanced Energy Centre is partnering with the Province to pilot Investor Confidence Project protocols in Ontario and explore how they can be adapted for the Canadian market.

Raising the bar for energy and water efficiency

The Province continues to play a leading role in improving the energy efficiency of the equipment in homes, offices and factories. Since 2013, the government has improved or set new energy efficiency standards for more than 60 products. The gains in energy efficiency have endured and have helped consumers save on their energy bills. In addition, economies of scale have lowered the cost of the technologies, making them more popular, affordable and more available than ever before.

A 2016 amendment to the Green Energy Act, 2009 allows the government to regulate the water efficiency of products that consume both energy and water. As a result, Ontario is now on a path to achieve more efficient use of water, even greater energy savings and reductions in GHG emissions.

The government will continue to set advanced efficiency standards for products and appliances and work with other provinces and the federal government to harmonize and raise the bar for energy and water efficiency standards.

Efficiency standards for drinking water and wastewater treatment plants

The Province is exploring opportunities to set or update energy efficiency standards for key electrical equipment in drinking water and wastewater treatment plants. As Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan pointed out, this would help municipalities to save on their electricity bills by reducing one of their largest uses of electricity.

Municipal water and wastewater services are typically one-third to one-half of a municipality’s total electrical use, so there is potential for reductions in both costs and emissions.

Climate Change Action Plan 2016

Expanding the scope of conservation

The government and its agencies have taken important steps to implement the Conservation First policy when planning to meet regional and local needs for electricity and natural gas, and are exploring how to further integrate this policy into their planning processes (see Chapter 8). During the LTEP consultations and engagements, LDCs and technology vendors expressed interest in using in front of the meter conservation (IFMC) technologies to help meet electricity conservation targets and reduce peak demand.

Several pilots across North America have demonstrated the potential benefits of deploying IFMC technologies, and the Smart Grid Fund and the Conservation Fund have supported pilots in Ontario. A recent study commissioned by the government estimated they can be cost-effectively deployed on 30 per cent of Ontario’s electricity distribution networks.

The government and its agencies will encourage distributors to make their networks more energy efficient, by allowing them to use the electricity savings from IFMC measures to meet their targets for electricity savings under the 2015 to 2020 Conservation First Framework. IFMC project costs will continue to be funded through distribution rates, and subject to the OEB's review process. The OEB will also identify steps for pursuing energy efficiency measures on the distribution system.

Integrating conservation and climate change programs

Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan emphasized the need to increase the use of low-carbon technology, such as solar panels and heat pumps, in homes and businesses. Several programs to increase energy choices for Ontarians are being introduced, funded by the proceeds from auctions in the carbon market.

The Green Ontario Fund is helping Ontarians move to a low-carbon future by offering them incentives, financing and services to increase the use of technologies that reduce GHG emissions. The Green Ontario Fund website provides a co-ordinated, one-window approach where Ontarians can get help, information and access to its programs, as well as to other conservation and renewable energy programs in the province.

Green Ontario Fund programs are building on the success of the province’s existing conservation and energy efficiency programs, providing Ontarians with more opportunities to reduce their energy costs and carbon footprint. The IESO is a partner in the delivery of certain Green Ontario Fund programs to help promote an efficient and customer-focused approach and minimize duplication with existing programs.

The government and its agencies will explore how to further integrate conservation and low-carbon technology programs for both electricity and fuels.

Under current conservation programs, combined heat and power projects that use supplied fossil fuels to generate electricity on-site are eligible for incentives because they can significantly reduce demand on the electricity grid. To help meet the Province’s climate change goals, these projects will no longer be eligible to apply for incentives under the Conservation First Framework and the Industrial Accelerator Program (IAP), starting July 1, 2018.

Because of their energy efficiency and environmental benefits, behind-the-meter waste energy recovery projects and projects that use renewable energy, such as solar thermal water heating or biomass fuel for boilers, will continue to be eligible for funding under the Conservation First Framework and the Industrial Accelerator Program. Electricity distributors may also develop incentive programs for energy storage systems that are integrated with a customer’s own renewable energy project. When added to on-site renewable generation, energy storage systems can provide reliability and help customers reduce their demand when prices are highest. This can help reduce peaks in demand on the local and provincial systems.


  • Demand Response capacity realized each year will depend on system needs and the competitiveness of demand response with other resources.
  • The government will continue to set advanced efficiency standards for products and appliances and is exploring setting or updating energy efficiency standards for key electrical equipment in drinking water and wastewater treatment plants.
  • The government and its agencies will further encourage distributors to pursue energy efficiency measures on their distribution systems to achieve customer electricity and cost savings.
  • The Green Ontario Fund will provide energy consumers with a co-ordinated, one-window approach to encourage conservation across multiple energy sources and programs.
  • The government is committed to expanding Green Button provincewide and intends to propose legislation that would, if passed, enable the government to require electricity and natural gas utilities to implement Green Button Download My Data and Connect My Data.
  • Beginning July 1, 2018, combined heat and power projects that use supplied fossil fuels to generate electricity will no longer be eligible to apply for incentives under the Conservation First Framework or the Industrial Accelerator Program. Behind the meter waste energy recovery projects will continue to be eligible, as will renewable energy projects, including those paired with energy storage systems.

Accessible descriptions

Figure 17: Green Button Connect my Data

Figure 17 is a graphic that illustrates how Green Button Connect My Data works. Consumers can give consent for their utility to securely transfer their energy data to an app or energy management tool of their choice. The utility transfers the energy data in Green Button format to the app or energy management tool authorized by the consumer. The app or energy management tool can analyze the energy usage data and identify opportunities for consumers, such as behavioural changes, reporting and benchmarking, demand response, energy efficiency retrofits.