Ottawa Hydro volunteers lose control — of their thermostats

Hydro Ottawa is recruiting volunteers willing to hand over control of their thermostats as part of a pilot project to reduce energy use during peak periods.

Bills expected to drop by 20 per cent

Hydro Ottawa is recruiting volunteers willing tohand overcontrol of their thermostats as part of a pilot project to reduce energy use during peak periods.

In return, volunteers for thepilot, called peaksaver,will get a free $250 programmable thermostat that Hydro Ottawa will install.

Hydro Ottawa spokesperson Bruce Bibby said participants willbe able to control the temperature themselves most of the time. They will even be able to do so remotely, over the internet.

But Hydro wants tocontrol the volunteers' thermostats onscorching summer days when energy-guzzling air conditioners strainthe power supply.

"We install the thermostats, and for the most part we don't touch it at all," said Bibby, the manager of Energy Conservation at Hydro Ottawa.

"Butwe dowant to have the option in those three or four hottest days of the year of being able to bump it up a degree or two."

He added that Hydro would only touch the thermostat on weekdays and that temperatures would only rise or fall byone or two degrees for up to four hours.

Hydro estimates participants willsave about 20 per centannually on their electricity bills.

Similar programs in U.S., Ontario

Programs similar to peaksaver arealready in place in five million homes and businesses in the U.S.

In Canada, a pilot program began in Toronto and was extended to other cities in Ontario this year.

Itwill run for three years, said peaksaver customer service representative Katherine Astejada in an interview.

In the Ottawa region, the utility is recruiting mainly in the Kanata area, and hopes to sign up 1,500 participants in a pilot project, including 1,200 single-family homes and 300 small businesses.

300 homes signed up since July

Since July, more than 300 people have signed up in the region, and Astejada said she gets a flood of calls from the Ottawa areawhenever a flyer calling for volunteers goes out.

"Everyone, almost, in Kanata wants to help out," she said, adding that program staff feel bad that not all callers are eligible— some don't have systems compatible with the pilot project, which requires central air conditioning and is not open to multi-family units.

The program will continue to recruit volunteers until all spots are filled.

Bibby said so far this year, the cooler summer meant it wasn't necessary to turn up any residential thermostats, so next summer will be the program's first real test.