High-tech computer mapping of high energy users has allowed Horizon Energy to get a handle on new ways of conserving energy. Called the  Energy Density Mapping Project  the [project has received the 2013 Environmental Excellence Award from the Electricity Distributors Association (EDA) for helping customers lower their utilities costs and consume less energy.

Horizon, providing power in St. Catharines and Hamilton, created the mapping project after the Ontario Power Authority mandated that utilities companies in Ontario must reduce consumption and demand, in order to comply with the Ontario Energy Board’s (OEB) instigated targets, says Cory Slinger, Manager of Market Development at Horizon Utilities.

The Ontario Power Association (OPA) is operating an incentive programme for consumers to conserve through use of low power lights and air conditioners, to use energy more efficiently and comply with global adjustment initiatives, says Slinger. The incentive programme is funded by the OPA—(which consumers pay into via their utilities bills), and the money goes back into these energy-saving programmes, which are free if a consumer meets the programme parameters. There are programmes available for low-income consumers, home-owners, small businesses, and corporations.

To Slinger, the problem for Horizon Utilities in reaching the targets set by the OEB was “connecting the consumers to the appropriate energy-saving programmes and giving them the incentives to do so.” At first, the utilities company used direct mailing to send the flyers to everyone—which was not only expensive and inefficient, but also ineffective. Now, says Slinger, “energy mapping helps us link the right customers to the right incentives for conservation.”

The company assembles data from sources such as the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC), Teranet and Environics Analytics, and the information is linked using the Canadian Urban Institute Geographical Information System (GIS). From this, the company constructed a database and from where they can identify the needs of consumers and match the property with the type of programme that would benefit them. As to privacy concerns, Slinger assures that the information is used “strictly by Horizon for conservation efforts.”

Since the project is funded by the OPA, the company will create a best practices document for the OPA so the OPA can inform other utilities companies of better ways of reducing power usage. The hope, according to Slinger, is that from the Horizon experience, “a more evolved way of doing things” may spread around the province.

Rachel Emery is a graduate of Political Science and an avid news-reader. She enjoys writing pieces on political analysis and world events, as well as environmental issues. In her spare time, she enjoys cycling, walking by the water, and rowing.

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