A picture of electricity consumption across Ontario

Consumption data collected by smart meters in Ontario has been used to support local distribution companies to bill customers through time-of-use rates. New uses for this data have started to emerge and can lend support for future opportunities and applications. In light of this, the Ontario Energy Board called on the IESO’s Smart Metering Entity (SME) to provide public access to highly aggregated smart meter data to support research into how electricity is used in the province.

Using smart meter data to follow consumption trends across Ontario

The IESO uses SME aggregated smart meter data as an input for its own forecast models used to manage the power grid. Leveraging aggregated smart meter data has helped improve the accuracy of demand forecasting and understanding new residential behaviours. As the IESO looks to the future, new work patterns are something our forecasters will take into account for daily operation of the grid.

Some of this data has also been used to show the earlier impacts of COVID-19 on Ontario's electricity system as well as average home consumption patterns.

Residential consumption

On March 16, 2020 Ontario entered the first lockdown of the pandemic. The province’s electricity demand profile over the last year tells the story of how Ontarians adapted and what we can expect for the future.

With Ontarians working from home and many business operations disrupted, the last year was like no other when it came to the way we use electricity. From demand dropping by 8-12 per cent in the first few months of the pandemic, to hitting the highest summer demand peak since 2013 in July.

As Ontario residents react to the weather, so does the electricity system. Increased use of electric heating and air conditioning in homes has caused residential peak demand to rise up to 13 per cent higher in winter and 19 per cent higher in summer than it would have before the pandemic.

As many Ontarians continued to work from home due to the pandemic, residential consumption of January and February of 2021 is much higher than compared to previous years.

Depicts a year by year comparison, from January 2018 to April 2021, of residential consumption data. Peak residential consumption occurs in July with the highest consumption seen in 2020 at 4,774,456,916.45 kWh an increase of 749,164,309.81 kWh compared to 2019 before the pandemic. The lowest consumption per year was typically seen in May with the lowest consumption per year was recorded in May 2019 at 2,527,838,560.79 kWh. Similar to July, May 2020 had a much higher residential consumption than previous years as we worked from home with a consumption of 3103623840.17 kWh, which is 575,785,279.34 kWh higher than May 2019.
Total Residential Meters by Year
Year Meter Count
2018 4,363,567
2019 4,406,433
2020 4,418,657
2021 4,445,366

The opposite effect was seen on the small commercial side. The pandemic restrictions caused a reduction in business usage which was the most pronounced in both April 2020 and April 2021.

Comparing the differences between the first months of 2020 and 2021: for small commercial customers, the consumption for early 2021 was the lowest in four years but started rising during the brief reopening of the economy and by February consumption, was the highest among the last four years. Consumption dropped as activities were restricted with a province wide stay-at-home order.


Depicts a year by year comparison, from January 2018 to April 2021, of small commercial consumption data. The impact of the pandemic can be seen in 2020 and 2021 as the spring months of these years had much lower small commercial consumption while the province was in lockdown compared to previous pre-pandemic years. For example, April 2020 had 604,441,678.29 kWh compared to April 2018 that had 708,344,461.55 kWh which was 103,902,783.26 kWh lower than the peak recorded consumption year of 2018. Overall peak consumption was highest in January and July with May and October typically recording the lowest consumption through the years being examined.
Total Small Commercial Meters by Year
Year Meter Count
2018 337,602
2019 341,545
2020 349,188
2021 350,880

Requests for Smart Meter Data

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the SME was approached by several universities who requested highly aggregated data that can be used to analyze the impact of the pandemic and the subsequent emergency measures to the economy. These data sets, aggregated at this high level by Census Division or Customer Type (Residential and Small General Service <50kW consumers) can be made available to others upon request.

Please contact customer.relations@ieso.ca for more information.

Definitions

Residential Customer: Applies to a consumer account taking electricity at 750 volts or less where the electricity is used exclusively in a separate metered living accommodation (for domestic household and personal residency use).

Small General Service < 50 kWh: Applies to a non-residential account taking electricity at 750 volts or less whose average monthly maximum demand is less than, or is forecast to be less than 50 kW.

Census Division: Group of neighbouring municipalities joined together for the purposes of regional planning and managing common services (such as police or ambulance services). These groupings are established under laws in effect in certain provinces of Canada. For example, a census division might correspond to a county, une municipalité régionale de comet or a regional district. In other provinces and the territories where laws do not provide for such areas, Statistics Canada defines equivalent areas for statistical reporting purposes in cooperation with these provinces and territories.

The SME does not collect any personal information; moreover, all the consumption data is aggregated at a very high level to allow for public presentment, while rigorously protecting the privacy of Ontarians. The provincial repository of smart meter read data is designed in conformance with the internationally recognized principles of Privacy by Design® and the protocols and methodologies used for data aggregation comply with the guidelines set out by the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner.