Vulnerable Households and the Smart Grid in Ontario: Emerging Challenges and Opportunities
Ian H. Rowlands and Gord Stephen

The smart grid modernizes our power system through the use of advanced information and communication technologies. These innovations allow our power grid to produce and consume electricity dynamically in response to shifts in demand and supply.

Ontario has been quick to adopt the smart grid, and many predict this transformation will lower energy costs, create jobs, reduce environmental impacts, and enhance energy service reliability.

But for the 30% of Ontario households who experience energy poverty, such developments do little to address the ongoing struggle between “heat or eat.” Analysis of smart grid adoption prioritizes the perspective of the average consumer, and rarely considers whether or not such technology provides security and opportunities for more vulnerable households.

In Vulnerable Households and the Smart Grid in Ontario: Emerging Challenges and Opportunities, Ian H. Rowlands and Gord Stephen seek to bridge this socio-technical disconnect by exploring how energy poverty and the smart grid intersect. The paper identifies potential conflicts, and presents opportunities for Ontario to navigate its technical energy system transformation while improving social equity and economic resilience.

Vulnerable Households is the fifth paper in the Metcalf Foundation’s Green Prosperity series that addresses a range of issues and opportunities in building a low-carbon, resource efficient, and resilient Canada. The sixth and final paper will be released in the fall.