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How does the Innovation Sandbox work?

There are two core components to the Sandbox process:

  • An information service available at any time that provides the opportunity for candid, informal dialogue between OEB staff and an innovator, and
  • A service by which proponents can apply in writing for specific forms of relief or support.

Information Service:

At any time, innovators may reach out with questions about the Sandbox or ideas they have about a potential Sandbox trial before a written proposal is submitted.

An informal and open dialogue between innovators and OEB staff may be used to, for example, discuss the development of a written Sandbox proposal or identify regulatory requirements that may be preventing a project from moving forward. Innovators who request a meeting with OEB staff will meet within 20 days of that request.

Project-specific support

For projects that are sufficiently developed and well-defined, proponents may not need to make use of the information service as a preliminary step, and instead can proceed with a specific request to seek relief or other forms of support. In these cases, a written proposal will generally be required in order to support staff’s understanding of the scope and features of the project.

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 support:

STREAM 1 Temporary Exemption from a Regulatory Requirement

If a proponent requests relief from a specific regulatory barrier that prevents a project from moving forward, the OEB may consider offering a temporary exemption from the regulatory requirement, where it is within the OEB’s authority to do so.
STREAM 2 Customized Guidance

Where no specific regulatory exemption is required, but the proponent perceives uncertainty or regulatory risk that prevents the project from further development, OEB staff may provide customized guidance (including, where appropriate, written assurances that the project does not raise compliance concerns) to help move the project forward.

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The more complete the information provided to staff, the more efficient and timely the process. At a minimum, a proposal must demonstrate that the eligibility requirements indicated below are met. Under either stream, proponents are encouraged to engage in early discussions with OEB staff, but such a step is not necessary.

The OEB has provided a template for written proposals that proponents may use. Those who choose not to use the template may submit proposals in the form of a letter, business case, or another format.

Proposal template

What are the five eligibility criteria for the Innovation Sandbox?

  1. Consumer benefit and protection.
    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. 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 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.
    Upon submission of a proposal, 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 Sandbox testing must be in place.
  2. True regulatory barrier (Stream 1).
    For projects seeking relief from a specific regulatory requirement, proponents must articulate the regulatory requirement(s) that may be at issue for the project moving forward.
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man at computer

What should I include in 

my Innovation Sandbox proposal?

The OEB has provided a template for proposals that proponents may use.

Typical information the OEB would expect:

  • 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 idea, 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
  • Customer communication plans
  • A description of the technical and business expertise of the project proponent(s)
  • Risk assessment, financial standing, liability and financial assurance of the project proponent(s)

What should I expect from the Innovation Sandbox process?
  1. Questions received through the website will receive a response via email
  2. Receipt of any written proposal will be acknowledged by return email
  3. If requested, a meeting in response to an inquiry or to discuss a specific proposal will be scheduled to take place within 20 days of the request. Meetings would typically be expected to take place via teleconference.
  1. If a temporary exemption from a regulatory requirement is requested (Stream 1), staff may provide guidance on the types of information to be included in the written proposal. It is anticipated that these proposals will typically be processed by staff without a hearing.
  2. Where a temporary exemption is not sought (Stream 2), or where the proponent is unsure whether the project requires an exemption, staff will provide guidance as appropriate.