2024 PLMA Award Winner - Pacesetter Program: 

The Ontario IESO with EnergyHub, ecobee, and Renew Home

PLMA Trophy 

Save on Energy Peak Perks Program

The Ontario IESO built Canada’s largest VPP in just six months with the capacity to deliver a peak demand reduction of up to 90 MW, equivalent to taking a mid-sized Candian city off the grid during peak times.

A 2022 Annual Acquisition Report identified necessary actions to ensure system reliability, including new energy-efficiency programs. Based on further recommendations from the IESO, the provincial government issued a ministerial directive to the IESO in October 2022, increasing investments in energy efficiency and demand management, which are among the lowest-cost ways of meeting system needs.

These increased investments enabled additional demand side management programming, including the "Save on Energy Peak Perks" program. Close coordination between the IESO, service provider EnergyHub, and partners including ecobee and Renew Home (formerly Google Nest) was essential to delivering rapid scale for the Peak Perks program.

The parties worked together to secure maximum available impressions for the program in OEM channels, optimized enrollment pages, and provided IESO with marketing recommendations and best practices. The IESO managed much of the “awareness” marketing itself, using a combination of paid and owned social media channels. ecobee launched a multi-pronged outreach including an innovative in-app tactic that surfaced the program to thousands of eligible customers. This tactic increased program applications submitted by 1,921%, directly contributing to a 7.5% program enrollment rate in just 1.5 months after launch. Based on historical benchmarks, a comparable program would have reached a 3.1% enrollment rate in 1.15 months. 

Google Nest was able to collaborate closely with IESO to stand up the Rush Hour Rewards program in a timely manner and to roll out the launch of the program in a way that made for smooth handling of waitlist and new enrollments. Google Nest completed a marketing push, via in-app messages and email, to the territory shortly after launching, resulting in tens of thousands of customer enrollments in just the first few months of the program. In addition to rolling marketing, also via in-app messages and email, Google Nest completes a marketing push to the territory on a quarterly basis. 

Adapting program design to the Canadian market was key. For example, enabling six-digit postal codes (in place of seven-digit US ZIP codes) was required. Further, program information was offered in both English and French, and the program provided call center support through Alarm.com with both English- and French-speaking support reps. 

Other factors contributing to the success of the program include the high penetration of smart thermostats across the province, the readiness of Ontario customers after a previous residential demand response program had been out of market for several years, and the ease of enrollment for customers. Ontario IESO's embrace of demand flexibility and its success building Canada's largest residential virtual power plant in just six months is a testament to the important role flexible capacity will play in delivering a reliable, increasingly decarbonized grid across North America.

About the PLMA Awards Program
PLMA's Awards Program, held each year, recognizes industry leaders who, in the previous calendar year, created innovative ideas, methods, programs, and technologies to manage end-use loads, meet peak load demand, and support the successful grid integration of distributed energy resources. The overarching goal of the PLMA Awards Program is to identify and promote industry initiatives that can potentially benefit multiple organizations. To facilitate learning, each award winner is invited to present their work and successes, as well as the important lessons learned, via a 1-hour webinar for all PLMA stakeholders. 

PLMA webinars are presented live online, published on its YouTube Channel, and broadcast over its podcast, "PLMA: Load Management Dialogues" which is available from whereever you get your podcasts. Please check the PLMA Calendar to register for an upcoming webinar. 

Over the past 21 years, PLMA has presented ~110 awards to utilities, product/service providers, end-users, and individuals responsible for demand response efforts targeted to the residential, commercial, industrial, and agricultural customer markets.