The OEB has committed to regular reporting on Sandbox activities. This marks the first report on the OEB Innovation Sandbox.

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On January 16, 2019, the Ontario Energy Board launched its OEB Innovation Sandbox (the Sandbox) to provide a streamlined, accessible way to support companies interested in testing new ideas, products, services and business models that have the potential to provide value to electricity and natural gas consumers.

The first 6 months

  • Twenty proponents approached the Sandbox since its launch. The majority of these were non-utility businesses. Companies have come forward with a wide range of issues and questions related to the regulatory treatment of new products, services and ideas for business models in Ontario.
  • Most companies that approached the Sandbox have been interested in information and guidance related to regulatory considerations associated with their ideas. OEB staff held meetings to provide information and guidance and to help increase understanding of the regulatory framework.
  • Five written proposals were received. Four related to regulatory requirements for which the OEB does not have the authority to provide relief (i.e. exemptions from regulation or legislation). The fifth related to activities for which no exemption was required.
Sandbox inquiries
of meetings held within 20 days
informational meetings
written proposals

Key themes and lessons learned:

  • Most proponents sought information and guidance around whether their project or idea was already possible under the current regulatory framework. Discussions with OEB staff helped to clarify what the regulatory framework allows and prohibits.
  • Some proponents identified barriers in areas where the OEB does not have the ability to grant relief. Although the OEB can in some circumstances provide exemptions from OEB Codes, Rules, licensing requirements, and under certain statutory provisions, the OEB is generally not able to provide exemptions from other government legislation or regulations.

    • A number of proponents have come forward expressing an interest in undertaking virtual net metering trials. Provincial regulations governing net metering do not enable virtual net metering, and the OEB has no authority to vary or exempt anyone from those regulations.
  • Some proponents have come forward with ideas that would involve shifting some costs (such as Global Adjustment) from one customer, or a subset of customers, onto other customers. As mentioned in the FAQ, the Sandbox is not designed to provide support for projects that shift costs from one or more customers onto others.
  • While both regulated utilities and non-regulated entities are welcome to approach the Sandbox, proponents whose activities are not regulated by the OEB should keep in mind that in most cases a utility partner is considered to be key for carrying out a trial in Ontario.
  • Some proponents have come forward with suggestions for long-term or permanent modifications to OEB policy or regulation. The Sandbox is not a forum for long-term policy change; the OEB has policy development processes that it can use to serve that function.

Key things to keep in mind before approaching the Sandbox

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Proponents interested in submitting a written proposal are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the Sandbox eligibility criteria first.

Examples of the types of things a proponent should consider:

  • The intent of the Sandbox is to support genuinely novel initiatives. Is my idea, product, service or business model truly innovative and not widely in use in Ontario?
  • Is the support I am looking for something the OEB has the authority to provide?
  • Is the type of support I need something the Sandbox is not intended to provide (e.g., support for business development)?
  • Is the innovative idea, product, service or business model I have likely to provide genuine benefits to consumers? What type of consumer benefits is my innovation likely to deliver?
  • Have I considered whether there is a regulatory barrier that I know is preventing the implementation of my innovative idea?
  • Have I considered whether I will need to partner with a utility in order to test my innovative idea?

Reminders: What is not part of the Sandbox?

The Sandbox serves a specific function for innovators. Unlike a business incubator, the Sandbox is not a way to provide business development support for a new product.

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Other things the Sandbox does not provide: 

  • Funding – At this stage, funding is not available
  • Support for a project that results in cost shifting between customers
  • Permanent regulatory change
  • Proposals for relief that are outside of the OEB’s ability to give

Last Updated: September 5, 2019