Status: Ongoing

Demand-side management involves initiatives and technologies that motivate consumers to engage in energy efficiency to optimize their energy use.

This may be reducing energy use or offsetting when power is used by customers. The aim of this project is to determine a suitable strategy for reducing or shifting Whitehorse’s load level during the ‘winter peak’ and to increase community engagement and awareness of the winter peak. The winter peak refers to a set of days in the winter that are highly demanding for the city’s power system, due to residents consuming more electricity for space heaters and other technologies. The peak is exacerbated by lower water levels on the river, resulting in lowered hydroelectric output. As a result, Yukon energy must supplement their hydroelectric power with natural gas and thermal assets to avoid power outages. Our goal in this project is to educate people and encourage them to defer their usage of electrical appliances that have a high-power consumption to off-peak times. If a large enough portion of the population partakes in these activities, a social demand-side management tool could take the place of rented diesel generators as a means of confronting Whitehorse’s winter peak.

During our campaign, Whitehorse residents will be educated about winter peak and necessary actions required for its reduction via social media posts created by our team and disseminated by our project stakeholders. These social media posts will also encourage residents to sign up for a Peak Notification System (PNS). The PNS, which will be hosted and administered by YukonU, will send either SMS or email messages to residents prior to, during, and after a winter peak event. These messages will alert residents, inform them of actions they can take and thank them for participating. Messages will be sent for a total of three peak events over the winter. The final message will send a link to a voluntary survey where residents can provide feedback about their participation in the program. Campaign success will be determined by measuring if there was any significant reduction in power consumption at peak times beyond the statistical error and participant’s level of engagement, as determined by survey feedback.

Amendment: As per feedback and public interest from the winter 2022 campaign, the scope of the beat the peak campaign will be widened during the winter of 2022-23. During this period, our team will work closely with several buildings throughout Whitehorse that follow a commercial rate structure in which energy costs are based off peak demand costs. Participants in these buildings will have a financial incentive to sign up for our Peak Notification System, due to the potential lowering of their demand charge on their electric bill. Power usage data (at building scale) will be provided to us throughout this season, allowing our research team to understand the impact of our Beat The Peak campaign and Peak Notification System upon a subset of the population. Power usage data will be aggregated for each building, such that no individual’s usage can be discerned.

Project description

This project’s methodology can be broken down into several key components: outreach and promotion of the Peak Notification System, deployment of the Peak Notification System, and post-campaign analysis.

  1. Outreach/Promotion: This section of the project will involve all stakeholders disseminating a set of ‘canned’ media content with educational messages pertaining to the winter peak and promotion of the peak notification system. This segment of the campaign will be focused almost exclusively on social media messaging. A third-party marketing and graphic design firm (to be determined following a tendering process with YukonU’s procurement department) will be responsible for developing our team’s content into marketable media. This firm will also conduct engagement analyses to determine the success of each social media post over the course of the campaign. The firm will be wholly responsible for conducting these analyses and will report their findings back to our research team, with all participant identifying info scrubbed from their report. This phase of the project will begin before the first anticipated winter peak, to prepare the public, but will continue over the duration of the winter.
  2. The second phase of the project will involve the administration of the Peak Notification System (PNS) to encourage participants to reduce their contribution to the winter peak. The PNS will be promoted via social media posts that will include a link to a landing page where members of the public may sign up for the notification system using either their email address or a phone number. The PNS will not collect any data beyond this. Although Northern Energy Innovation will be funding the service required to provide the PNS, the notification system itself will be administered by YukonU, who will work closely with Yukon Energy to deploy messages to participants before, during and after three peak events over the course of the winter. Following the third peak event, YukonU will send out an optional survey link to participants, using the PNS. This survey will ask participants how they heard about the peak notification system and what they did to reduce their contribution to the peak. These questions will be multiple choice and will not allow room for participants to identify themselves or anyone else. YukonU will distill these results into a brief report that they will provide to our research team for post-project analysis. YukonU will use the Canadian service HubSpot to provide the PNS and their organization’s preferred service (SurveyMonkey) for conducting surveys.
  3. Post-campaign analysis will involve three elements of analyses: the marketing and design firm will provide a report to NEI that summarizes the success/level of engagement associated with the messages in the outreach portion of our campaign. Identifying information of any participants will be scrubbed from the report. The findings of this report will be used to determine how messaging for a DSM campaign can be refined in the future. In a similar vein, YukonU will provide a brief report of PNS engagement, by means of their preferred survey tool. These results will not include any identifying information but will merely be a breakdown of the popularity of each question’s multiple-choice response. HubSpot will also be able to provide YukonU with numbers of the total number of registrations for the PNS.

Finally, our team will work with Yukon Energy, who can supply high-level usage data corresponding to each peak event. Our team will use this information to discern whether our campaign had any discernible effect upon winter peaks. The data that Yukon Energy provides will be high-level, involving distribution feeders that supply power to entire neighborhoods. It will not be possible to discern individual behaviours from this data

Project team

Dr. Michael Ross, Program Lead, Industrial Research Chair in Northern Energy Innovation, Yukon Research Centre, Yukon University
Joe Collier, Project Officer, Yukon Research Centre. MScF, UNB; B.A, University of Ottawa
Inderjeet Kaur, Research Assistant, YukonU Research Centre. MSc in Chemistry
Josephine Afful, Student Research Assistant, YukonU Research Centre. MPA, PMP
Sarah Newton, Student Research Assistant, YukonU Research Centre.

Partners and funders

Yukon Conservation Society
City of Whitehorse
Yukon Energy Corporation
Yukon Government’s Energy Branch
YukonU Scholarly Activity Grant