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How does the Innovation Sandbox work?

OEB Innovation Sandbox support includes:

  • Information Service: An information service available at any time that provides the opportunity for candid, informal dialogue between OEB staff and an innovator; and
  • Pilot Project Support: A service by which proponents can request specific forms of support from OEB staff, including customized guidance and/or assistance regarding a request for relief from a regulatory requirement.

Information Service

At any time, innovators may reach out to staff with questions about the OEB Innovation Sandbox, ideas for innovative products, services or business models, or ideas about a specific pilot project.

An informal and open dialogue between innovators and OEB staff may be used to, for example, clarify the regulatory framework, discuss any regulatory requirements that may be preventing a project from moving forward, or discuss the development of a pilot project. For innovators who request a meeting with OEB staff, a meeting will be held within 20 days of that request.

Pilot Project Support

For projects that are sufficiently developed and well-defined, proponents will need to provide written information to support staff’s understanding of the scope and features of the pilot project. The more complete the information provided to OEB staff, the more efficient and timely the process.

A first step in accessing pilot project support is to engage in an initial discussion with OEB staff. Proponents seeking support will also be required to submit written information describing their proposed pilot and the support being sought. The OEB has provided a template for written proposals that proponents may use, although proponents may submit materials in another format of their choosing.

While some projects will require relief from an existing regulatory requirement, not all projects will need an explicit regulatory exemption. In order to distinguish between these two types of projects, the OEB has conceptualized two types of pilot project support:


1. Customized Guidance

Where no specific regulatory exemption is required, but the proponent perceives uncertainty or regulatory risk that prevents an innovative pilot project from further development, OEB staff may provide customized guidance (including, for example, written confirmation of OEB staff’s view that the project does not raise compliance concerns) to help move the project forward.
2. Temporary Exemption from a Regulatory RequirementIf a regulatory requirement is identified that is proving to be a barrier to the advancement of an innovative pilot project, proponents may be interested in accessing temporary relief from that regulatory requirement. In that case, OEB staff is available to assist the proponent with respect to the pursuit of temporary relief.

Note: The OEB may grant exemptions from its own regulatory requirements, such as OEB electricity codes, OEB natural gas rules and OEB licences. Subject to certain exceptions, the OEB cannot grant exemptions to requirements that are found in statutes or regulations.

Are there eligibility criteria for the OEB Innovation Sandbox?

Innovators that wish to use the Information Service may approach the OEB Innovation Sandbox and request a meeting at any time, without being bound by eligibility criteria.

Proponents that are interested in accessing Pilot Project Support must ensure their project meets the following eligibility criteria:

 

  1. Consumer benefit and protection.
    OEB Innovation Sandbox projects must demonstrate a reasonable prospect of providing clear benefits to consumers, whether through long-term economic efficiencies, improvement in cost performance, enhancements to service or other forms of benefits. Projects must also demonstrate that there are sufficient safeguards in place to provide consumers with a reasonable degree of protection during the trial.
  2. Relevance.
    The project must relate to the delivery of natural gas or electricity services in Ontario.
  3. Innovation.
    The project must involve testing a new product, service or business model that is not widely in use in Ontario and is conducive to scaling, replication or serving as a potential model for others to adopt or deploy.
  1. Readiness.
    The proponent must demonstrate their preparation and readiness for testing their innovation in a live environment. Testing plans must be well developed and have clear objectives and measures. The tools and resources required to enable pilot testing must be in place.
  2. True regulatory barrier (to access temporary exemption).
    For projects seeking temporary relief from a regulatory requirement, proponents must make an effort to articulate the regulatory requirement(s) that may be at issue for the project moving forward.
woman at computer
woman at computer

What should I include in 

my Innovation Sandbox proposal?

The OEB has provided a template for proposals that proponents may use. For proponents who prefer to submit their project proposals in another format, typical information the OEB would expect includes: scope, goals and expected outcomes of the proposed project:

  • Identification of possible barriers or risks preventing the project from moving forward.
  • Description of how the project meets the eligibility criteria.
  • A market scan for the innovative product, service or business model proposed in the project as a means of demonstrating the extent of its use in Ontario or elsewhere to date.
  • Customer types and number of participants to be targeted by the trial.
  • Exit and transition plans.
  • A description of the technical and business expertise of the project proponent(s).
  • Risk assessment associated with the project.

What should I expect from the OEB Innovation Sandbox process?
  1. Enquiries with requests for meetings received through the OEB Innovation Sandbox email will receive a response via email.
  2. If a meeting is requested, it will take place within 20 days of the request. No written material is required to access the initial meeting.
  1. If a proponent wants to move forward with a pilot project, written information will be required.
  2. The expectation is that this is a collaborative, iterative process involving the proponent and OEB staff. OEB staff may require additional information to help clarify the scope of the project and the type of support required to move the project forward.

Confidentiality

The OEB has committed to regular reporting on OEB Innovation Sandbox activities, including sharing key themes and lessons learned. However, in the normal course:

Where guidance provided through the OEB Innovation Sandbox relates to a matter that is of broader interest to regulated entities or other stakeholders – such as guidance relating to the meaning or application of a regulatory or legal requirement – that guidance may be shared more broadly through appropriate means, including by way of OEB Innovation Sandbox reporting or through a staff Bulletin. Where this is the case, OEB staff will communicate that intention to the proponent.

This approach seeks to strike a balance between transparency and ensuring that concern about the disclosure of commercially sensitive information is not a disincentive to coming forward with innovative proposals. Persons that engage with OEB staff through the OEB Innovation Sandbox are reminded that the OEB is subject to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Ontario) and that information exchanged through the OEB Innovation Sandbox may be disclosed in a proceeding before the OEB.

Proponents that are comfortable with information about their projects being shared publicly to support learning across the sector are asked to make that clear to OEB Innovation Sandbox staff.

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