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Ontario Utilities Plan Technology-Powered Deregulation

Power companies ready a transaction clearinghouse for energy companies

2 Min Read

California isn't alone in trading in its monopoly utility system. The Canadian province of Ontario is also letting the law of supply and demand govern electricity generation and distribution-but it hopes to avoid the stratospheric rates and blackouts suffered by the Golden State partly by using standardized procedures fueled by technology.

Deregulation of Ontario's electricity market, scheduled for sometime next year, gives businesses and consumers the chance to choose among 40 retailers expected to enter the market. As part of the restructuring, the Ontario Energy Board has mandated that retailers and their local distributors adhere to electronic-business-transaction standards in customer billing.

To meet the mandate, Toronto Hydro Corp. and Ontario Power Generation-the two largest electrical distributors and generators in the province-will launch a joint venture at the time of the market change that will serve as a transaction clearinghouse for energy companies. Toronto Hydro and Ontario Power have invested about $7 million in EBT Express and hope to expand the service across the country.

EBT Express will offer a standard way to process the government-mandated data exchange required when customers switch suppliers, says Rob Lister, president and CEO of EBT Express. "Profit isn't the primary motivation behind EBT Express," he says. "The driver has been to remove one of the barriers to the opening of the retail market."

Headquartered in Toronto, EBT Express will be a centralized electronic data-management and transaction service for millions of customer-billing transactions. While other organizations are free to offer similar services, EBT Express already has 40 to 50 distributors signed on, representing nearly half of Ontario's 4 million power customers.

Technology from Excelergy Corp. will let companies move XML-formatted data via the Internet into the EBT Express hub. As part of their costs, retailers and distributors deploy Excelergy adapters to transform data from customer information systems into a government-defined XML schema. Pricing depends on the size of the participant.

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