Energy Smart City Canada (Complete Guide 2019)

Energy Smart City – A city where all energy generation, management, and storage technologies communicate with each other and respond to their environment to maximize energy efficiency and reduce energy usage. All energy participants including governments, businesses, and individuals can view information from, and participate in, ownership of all Distributed Energy Resources in the city.

This article focuses on three major aspects of energy smart cities:

The Energy Smart City Experience

Waterfront Toronto Sidewalk Labs - Smart City
Sidewalk Toronto, an energy smart neighbourhood currently being developed in Toronto, Ontario.

Imagine for a moment that you’re waking up early on a warm summer morning. Your feet touch the floor, cooled by the ocean waves, and you breathe in the clean fresh air circulating in from the green spaces on the walkway below. As you leave for the day, the city comes alive. An autonomous electric vehicle, scheduled by no-one, arrives instantly – taking you through an ever adapting neural network of passageways to the places you need to go. Somewhere along the way you pull out your phone and buy shares in your neighbourhood’s solar collector. You notice your bank balance slowly climbing as your own EV is out there earning income, driving someone, somewhere.

Energy Generation

A primary objective of energy generation in an energy smart city is to decrease the overall consumption of resources. For this reason, considerable emphasis is placed on passive generation, followed by active generation, and finally by demand generation.

Passive Generation

  • Passive Solar (heat)
  • Passive Wind (cooling)
  • Greenery (cooling)

Active Generation

  • Solar PV (electricity)
  • Wind (electricity)
  • Solar Thermal (heat)

Demand Generation

  • Geothermal (heat)
  • Biofuel (electricity & heat)
  • LNG/LP (electricity & heat)

The energy generated from passive and active generation technologies are immediately used, stored on site, or transferred to another part of the grid as needed. Demand generation technologies are activated only when passive and active technologies are unable to meet the energy needs of the city.

Dockside Green - Sustainable City
Dockside Green, a sustainable neighbourhood using passive, active, and demand energy generation in Victoria, BC.

Energy generation technologies are typically distributed throughout the network in order to minimize the distance the energy needs to travel. The distribution of generation technology also makes the grid more balanced and increased the number of people who can participate in the energy market.

Another unique aspect of energy generation equipment is its ability to communicate to other components of the network, as well as to respond to changes in network conditions. For example, a theater hall full of people would know automatically to cool the building by sending body heat to other buildings where it’s needed more.

Energy Storage

The primary objective of storing energy in a smart city is to balance the mismatch between the times of the day when most energy is used (evening) and when most energy is generated (daytime) – this is especially the case with electricity.

Another primary objective is to store energy where it’s generated to reduce the amount of distance that it needs to travel. Therefore, one would think that a distributed network of batteries positioned closely to distributed generation technologies would be the obvious solution.

However, something more exciting appears to be taking shape…

Tesla Electric Vehicle - Energy Storage Device
Electric Vehicles (EVs) make fantastic energy storage and transportation devices.

While it may sound crazy today, autonomous electric vehicles (EVs) are the energy storage devices of tomorrow. EVs are useful not only for moving people throughout a city, but also for moving energy throughout a city.

A fleet of EVs can store energy produced during the day and then deliver the energy to the places it’s most needed in the evening – and fortuitously enough, electricity demand and people are highly correlated!

Utilities can also use autonomous EVs to balance system load – allowing vehicle owners to participate in the shared benefits by granting energy credits or renting battery capacity.

Energy Participation

The most critical aspect of an energy smart city is the ability for people to participate and benefit from the various energy technologies that it’s composed of (including both generation and storage). An energy smart city is not a bunch infrastructure controlled by a central entity – it is an ecosystems of decentralized components all communicating information and trading value with each other.

Fortunately, a technology exists that makes decentralized communications and trading economically feasible – it’s called the blockchain. A public energy blockchain underpins all true energy smart cities.

Energy Power Blockchain
The Power Ledger blockchain enables people in smart cities to be consumers, prosumers, and co-generators.

Public Energy Blockchain

A public energy blockchain is a technology network that allows individuals to buy and sell energy with each other, as well as share the ownership of Distributed Energy Resources (DERs).

When using the blockchain to trade energy and shares in DERs, transactions are secure, instantaneous, and transparent – providing significant social and economic value to the overall energy system. Energy trading over a blockchain also offers large benefits for grid managers including power quality and capacity management, network and frequency control services, and improved system resilience.

There are several ways in which individuals can participate in an energy smart city:


Energy consumers in Canada are forced to use the energy they’re provided regardless of how unsustainable it is. If you really consider this point, it means that your utility is making a major decision about your personal environmental, social, and economic impact, without you.

A public energy blockchain would give you full control over where you source your energy from, how it’s produced, and how much you’re willing to pay for it.

You could choose to buy clean electricity from any DER connected to the grid – this might be your neighbour’s solar pv system (prosumer), your community’s wind farm (co-generator), or even a government owned biofuel facility.


Let’s pretend that you currently own a solar photovoltaic system and are generating more energy than you use on a yearly basis. If you’re unable to store your energy, your utility will force you into one of three options depending on which province you’re from:

  • They will keep your excess power, paying you nothing
  • They will pay you a reduced rate for your excess power
  • They will pay you the retail rate for your excess power

At best, you’re paid the retail rate after a 12 month settlement process. In many cases, you may not even be able to build an over-generating system in the first place.

Peer-to-Peer energy trading would allow you to sell your excess energy to your community, regardless of the amount, at fair market value – this may be the current retail rate or even at a premium if they’re willing to pay for it.


It’s often the case that homeowners in Canada want to participate in the Distributed Energy Resource (DER) market but cannot due to several reasons:

  • Physical constraints (insufficient roof/yard space, sun, or wind)
  • Economic constraints (high upfront costs, no access to capital)
  • Situational constraints (you don’t own your property)
  • Regulatory constraints (limitations on DER size or type)

A unique opportunity that exists with some P2P energy trading systems is the ability to become a co-generator. Co-generators buy shares (ownership) in DERs and split the resulting profits. This allows every individual the ability to participate in DERs regardless of personal constraints.

Secondary Markets

Public energy blockchains will also allow you to trade shares in DERs just like stocks. Think about how dividend-paying stocks are traded on a stock exchange, energy-paying DER shares can be traded on an energy exchange.

Just imagine being able to use an ‘energy management dashboard’ to buy and sell shares in DERs – investments in physical energy generation infrastructure would be extremely liquid!

The public blockchain could also be used to trade other energy assets like carbon and renewable energy credits.

Interested In Energy Smart Technologies?

Then read more about them here…

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