In a climate of climbing temperatures, the Ontario government will pay some of the province’s residents to run their air conditioning (A/C) less on hot summer days. 

It’s all part of a $342M investment in energy efficiency programs. 

This sizable investment brings the total investment to more than $1B over the current four-year electricity conservation framework, says the province. According to a press release issued by the Ontario government, the funding will support new and expanded programs that will help families and businesses reduce their electricity use so they can save money on their energy bills, while helping to meet the province’s emerging electricity system needs.

As part of the program, customers with smart thermostats would get paid to have their air conditioning remotely reduced. The funding will support this new voluntary Residential Demand Response Program with an incentive for homes with an existing central air conditioning or heat pump unit and smart thermostat to help lower energy use at peak times and lower bills. 

The funding will also provide targeted support for greenhouse growers in Southwest Ontario, in addition to enhancements to existing programs that provide support for businesses, municipalities, hospitals, and other institutions to reduce their energy use and their energy bill.

“Our government’s success in driving electrification of industry and transportation and strong economic growth is increasing electricity demand, and our government is looking at every option to meet these upcoming needs,” said Todd Smith, Minister of Energy. “By 2025, this expansion of energy-efficiency programs will help deliver enough annual electricity savings to power approximately 130,000 homes every year and reduce costs for consumers by over $650M.”

Air conditioningAir Conditioning Technician are servicing air conditioners.

Smith had asked the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) to suggest new energy conservation initiatives, as the province faces a rising demand from electrification. The government accepted IESO’s recommendation to roll out these new and expanded energy-efficiency program, which they call “among the fastest and most cost-effective ways of meeting system needs.”

The intention is that they will be available to eligible electricity customers beginning in Spring 2023.

“Energy conservation is an important part of Ontario’s plan to build a cleaner, greener Ontario,” said David Piccini, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. “Using less energy is better for people and our planet. It’s also one of the fastest and most effective ways to save money, address climate change and help ensure we can continue to generate the clean, renewable and affordable electricity needed to meet the province’s long-term needs.”

These enhancements are expected to have a particular impact in Southwest Ontario, with regional peak demand savings of 225 megawatts (MW). This will help to alleviate electricity system constraints in the region and foster economic development, says the Province.

The overall savings from this energy efficiency programming will result in an estimated three million tonnes of greenhouse gas emission reductions over its lifetime -- the equivalent to taking approximately 600,000 vehicles off the road for one year.

“With strong economic growth and electrification increasing system demands, the IESO is committed to meet growing system needs and ensuring grid reliability by enhancing energy efficiency programming,” said Lesley Gallinger, President and CEO, the IESO. “Energy efficiency is one of the most reliable and cost-effective approaches to ensuring reliability on the grid. By using energy wisely, we increase opportunities to support electrification initiatives and decarbonization efforts at the same time.”

The move comes after a scorching summer that raised questions as to whether it's time to mandate A/C for all tenants.