An 80s vaporwave or arcade style illustration opens with the the words On the Grid. Wind turbines line the sides, drawing us towards the illuminated city set between mountains with the sun sinking behind it. Stars twinkle in the sky.

The mere mention of “the grid” conjures images of Tron to mind and the  ubiquitous vaporwave styling of 80s arcade games. The genre was obsessed with the possibilities of technology and the benefits it might offer us. In that vein, this piece imagines the future of our electricity grid, with more reliance and usage of wind and solar power to serve even our most populous metropolitan areas.

Original artwork by Surface Impression (Aedán Crooke) for the Information Privacy Commissioner of Ontario

Image provided in English only.

Ontario Energy Board

Data on the energy sector, shared through the Electricity Reporting and Record-keeping Requirements and Open Data initiative, means more accountability, competition and innovation 

The Ontario Energy Board’s open data initiative involves making the data collected from licensed electricity distribution companies available on its open data platform, resulting in greater transparency and accountability, and allowing for more analysis, efficiency and innovation.

The energy transition, itself a global shift away from using fossil fuels (like oil, gasoline, and coal) to a more sustainable, renewable energy future that includes more innovation and customer choice, can be thought of in terms of the “Four D’s” – decarbonization, digitalization, decentralization and democratization. Aligned with the Four D’s, the OEB is already undertaking important work that responds to the changing needs of consumers and of the energy sector. This includes modernizing the way in which it collects and presents data.

Annually, electricity distributors are required to send utility performance data to the OEB. The data tells a story about grid health, customer growth, costs, financials, and even the impact of serious weather events on system reliability. For years, a subset of this data was published in what was known as the “Yearbook.” However, in recent years, stakeholders began to request access to more non-confidential data, and in a format that allowed for deeper, more customized analysis. In response, in September 2022, the OEB launched its Open Data Initiative for Electricity Reporting and Record-keeping Requirements Information.

The information the OEB shares through this initiative provides valuable insights into the operations of each electricity distributor, including the number and types of customers they serve, the amount of electricity consumed, support programs available, and financials. In accordance with the province’s Digital and Data Directive, the data is made available in a structured and computer-ready software format. It enables individualized, custom analysis of the various metrics. Utility companies can also use this data to compare and improve service offerings and performance.

Stakeholder engagement has been an important component. Feedback was used to streamline the data being collected and a workshop was designed to provide users with more in-depth training on how to access and fully optimize the files, which are offered in various formats. It’s data journey continues and just recently, on March 22, 2023, the OEB launched an Interactive System Reliability Dashboard which presents electricity distribution companies’ system reliability data in a visual and interactive format. The dashboard will allow consumers to easily access and interact with the data – another innovate milestone achieved by the OEB.

The OEB’s open data initiative enables greater access to, sharing and analysis of data about the province’s energy sector. The data can help enrich public dialogue about utility decision-making and planning. Further, it promotes distributor accountability and encourages competition and innovation in this evolving sector, which benefits all energy consumers.