Ontario’s greenhouse growers are eligible to receive incentives to help manage their electricity costs through the Save on Energy Retrofit program. This program, delivered by the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), offers incentives for greenhouse operators for up to half the capital costs of installing eligible energy-efficiency measures to reduce electricity demand in their facilities.
The Save on Energy Retrofit program incentives are designed to help reduce electricity use in a sector that is vital to Ontario’s economy, according to Heather Tripp, Save on Energy representative. “Sixty percent of Canada’s horticultural production area is located in Ontario, and it is important that the industry remain competitive and thrive”, Tripp stated in a webinar hosted by 360 Energy in late August.
Tripp noted that, by lowering their energy use, Ontario growers can help the province reduce the need to build new electricity system infrastructure. Since 2015, the IESO’s Save on Energy programs have reduced province-wide electricity demand – equivalent to the amount consumed in 800,000 homes – and delayed the need to build expensive transmission and generation capacity.
To be eligible for these incentives, greenhouse energy-efficiency projects need to deliver peak demand and/or electricity consumption reductions for at least four years, Tripp told webinar participants. “Just about any commercially available technology that can deliver sustainable and measurable electricity savings is considered an eligible project.”
The Save on Energy Retrofit program encourages growers to look closely at their lighting strategy as the single largest opportunity to reduce their electricity use and costs. For example, program incentives will cover up to half of the eligible project costs to convert existing high-pressure sodium (HPS) horticultural lighting to LEDs. The energy reductions achieved from this conversion can be as high as fifty percent, according to Tripp. She noted that adding LED lighting to a greenhouse that previously relied only on natural light is also an eligible expense.
LED lighting lasts between five to 10 times longer than HPS options, reducing lighting replacement costs over the long term. “In many cases, greenhouse operators who invest in energy-efficient LED lighting see a payback in two to three years, especially with the help of the Retrofit program incentives,” Tripp said. Using LED lights can also help growers better manage humidity levels and reduce the load on their heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment.
Tripp also acknowledged that there is a learning curve to adopt LED lights for growing crops – and that it may not be an easy decision for greenhouse growers to install LED lights to meet their crop needs. LEDs may not provide the colour spectrum lighting needed for optimal crop
growth, and in some facilities, the excess heat from traditional lights is used efficiently as supplemental space heating.
However, newer LED systems allow greater control over spectral light. She suggested that growers consider implementing pilot projects to gain experience in the optimal use of LEDs. Tripp is confident growers will want make the change once they learn how to make the best use of LED technology.
Growers who wish to access the Save on Energy Retrofit program incentives need to undertake a base case energy study and prepare an energy-efficiency case. This groundwork will provide them with a solid understanding of their key operational energy usage and costs.
Greenhouses located in Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent can take advantage of an enhanced Retrofit program LED incentive to help them reduce energy costs and help the province better manage growing energy needs in these areas that is driven by strong agricultural growth. The incentive for LEDs is being tripled and can cover up to 50 percent of overall project costs for local customers. The increased incentive is available for a limited time for both lighting retrofit and new construction projects.
All Retrofit program applications must receive pre-approval from the IESO by the end of this year, so growers are encouraged to submit their applications as soon as possible to avoid disappointment. All approved projects need to be installed and in service by December 31, 2021.
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