A Canadian Smart Grid in Transition: A Case Study of Heat for Less
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Energy supply is a major contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions. Smart grids, technologies which integrate information and communication components into the electricity grid, have emerged as a cost-effective means of mitigating energy supply emissions, optimizing the integration of intermittent renewables and creating new opportunities for demand side management. Smart grid projects have been launched in many Canadian provinces, however few of these projects have succeeded beyond the pilot stage. In order to learn and benefit from these smart grid experiments, the literature suggests documenting these projects in detailed case studies. This paper presents a case study of Heat for Less, a smart grid project in Summerside, Prince Edward Island that links the City’s excess wind capacity to smart appliances, sold and installed in the homes of residents, which store electricity in the form of heat. Drawing on desktop research and semi-structured interviews, this paper details how and why Heat for Less moved beyond the pilot stage and into wide-scale deployment. Additionally, this paper analyzes these findings by applying three frameworks from the sustainability transitions literature: strategic niche management, the multilevel perspective, and the transition pathways. This research found that context is critical to understanding how this project moved along the innovation chain. In addition to the technological aspects of Heat for Less, the politics and social dynamics at play in the City of Summerside significantly contributed to the success of this project. Future researchers might consider expanding upon this study by surveying the early-adopting homeowners who purchased smart appliances. Further, researchers might also consider transferring the methodology used in this paper to a similar smart grid project for comparative purposes.