Those who want to see what the US could look like in a future where smart grid is widely deployed should start with nearby neighbor Ontario, says technology and communications firm Trilliant.

Facing widespread retirements of power plants that would limit electric supply availability, the Canadian province, home to several of the country’s largest cities, abandoned the opt-in model popular among US utilities and required the installation of smart meters to facilitate time-of-use electricity pricing. Prices now rise and fall with demand at the domestic level, and smart meters, more than a million of them deployed by Trilliant customer Hydro One to date, allow customers to see those prices and react to conserve energy.

The quick deployment is based on a degree of regulatory compulsion that isn’t likely to take hold in the US, Trilliant Chief Marketing Officer Rob Conant told Breaking Energy in a recent interview. Hyrdo one is publicly owned, and the regulatory structure in Canada is extremely different, Conant said. The firm is hoping, though, that best practices from the widespread Ontario deployment will take root among regulators and utilities in the US, Conant said.

“They are ahead of the wave in Ontario,” Conant said, and the province is already moving into the second stage of smart grid in which distributed, small-scale renewable generation that is more intermittent than traditional coal and nuclear baseload can be deployed widely. The Hydro One smart meter deployment is “a good case study for what will happen across the world with smart grid,” Conant said.

Trilliant is a technology firm that builds private utility networks to operate smart grid systems, and is helping companies like Hydro One build an “energy internet.” The energy internet would connect home devices along with substations and distributed generation, but will require “higher capacity, lower latency, and a broader coverage than the standard advance metering infrastructure networks being distributed today,” the company said.

A major feature of deploying smart meters on a large enough scale to craft and integrated smart grid is customer education, Trilliant Director of Corporate Marketing Sonita Lontoh told Breaking Energy. Hyro One did an excellent job of consumer education and spelling out benefits as they proceeded with the rollout of time-of-use pricing.

Ontario has also been aggressive in dealing with the potential data privacy issues that arise when smart meter installations have been proposed in the US and elsewhere. Breaking Energy spoke with the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner, who recommended building in privacy features from the base design.

Photo Caption: Toronto, Ontario.