What if you had your own personal assistant? One that gets you free coffee, pays your bills and turns off your stove if you forget. A world where consumers engage with energy usage is upon us – with Nest, the Tesla Powerwall, and an endless world of apps – people have remote access to their appliances and home systems like never before. Yet the possibilities of greater consumer access and engagement have only begun to be realized.

A new mixed-use development in Ottawa, Zibi, led by Windmill Development Group and Dream Unlimited Corp, is unlocking these possibilities in a whole new way. At a recent design charrette at MaRS, the Advanced Energy Centre convened innovators and industry experts with Hydro Ottawa, focused on identifying and discussing innovative energy solutions for achieving carbon neutrality with the 40-acre project in Ottawa.

One idea that came out of the charrette is the Digital Sustainability Concierge, which would provide residents and businesses with access to data on the community’s energy usage, including resource consumption data for each suite or business. Users could easily compare their energy usage with one another- neighbours, family members and lead conservers within the community. A recent study by McKinsey and Opower predicts that when users begin to receive energy reports – comparing their consumption to others – this has potential to accrue more than 2 terawatt hours (TWh) in electricity savings, which is “equivalent of taking a city of 500,000 people off the grid for a whole year.”

The Digital Sustainability Concierge would issue rewards and incentives (e.g. discounts at your local coffee shop), push carbon intensity or pricing notifications to users, and allow them to remotely control smart devices or plugs in their home. It would also employ the One Planet Community framework to give consumers personalized targets and baseline information for each aspect (e.g. zero carbon, sustainable water use, equity and local economy), as well as ways to manage energy usage, save money and live sustainably.

To read more ideas that came out of the session read the report.

Building one of the world’s most sustainable communities

Located in the heart of our Nation’s capital, Zibi is an ambitious mixed-use brownfield redevelopment project that represents an opportunity for Hydro Ottawa to deploy innovative technologies and tools that will result in heightened consumer engagement, decreased carbon emissions, cost-savings, and increased resource efficiency. Led by Windmill Development Group and Dream Unlimited Corporation, the Zibi community has been identified by Bioregional as Canada’s first One Planet Community and only the tenth worldwide, representing the project’s unrelenting commitment to sustainability.

Aaron Barter

Aaron led the Community Energy Program at the Advanced Energy Centre, which examines systemic barriers to deployment of innovative technologies within local energy systems, and convenes industry to accelerate the deployment of microgrid solutions in Canada. See more…

Kathleen Gnocato

Kathleen Gnocato is Manager of the Utility Transformation Program for the Advanced Energy Centre at MaRS. See more…

Mieka Buckley-Pearson

Mieka Buckley-Pearson supports the Advanced Energy Centre and its partners to catalyze the adoption of energy innovation in Ontario and Canada, and to leverage those successes in international markets. See more…