Sustainable energy, what are we waiting for? Interview with Jay Heaman of Woodstock Hydro

By Colette Lavoie Robertson, originally posted by OSEA

“Maybe eventually, we will all generate all of the power we need for our homes, vehicles and heating. We will have the ability to share our power with our neighbours. Our cars will become power sources for our homes. We will reach a point where fossil fuels are no longer needed for heating and mobility.”

- Jay Heaman

The Green Energy Act: We need to lead by example

Many don’t realize that in addition to the Feed-in Tariff and energy efficiency programs, the Green Energy Act was designed to encourage municipalities and utilities to lead by example. Municipalities are now required to establish a Municipal Energy Plan and to engage residents in community based energy programs. The idea is that residents as consumers will learn from this level of leadership and eventually adopt many of the ideas and improvements into their lives.

When I began working on this article I realized that at times the terminology of the energy sector, like so many industries, can be intimidating almost impenetrable. Thankfully my training as a teacher has equipped me with the ability to ask lots of questions and with the help of our guide, Mr. Jay Heaman, I was able, I hope, to capture the amazing story for you as readers to enjoy.

This article is divided into two parts. The first section highlights a bit of Jay’s story and some of the key initiatives of Woodstock Hydro. The second section profiles the utility’s participation in Green Energy Doors Open this past October.

The passion of a true green energy champion

While interviewing Jay Heaman on a nice crisp September morning about his participation in the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association’s Green Energy Doors Open it became crystal clear after only a few questions that he was a man passionate about his work.

In all facets of his life Jay works to champion and inspire people to shift their thinking and become active participants in the sustainable energy system.

Jay explains that at home, “Reducing electricity consumption is the first thing we can all do. At my home it is a family affair!”

“Conservation, or rather good energy habits, saves us money and is something that my children have taken with them to their own homes and families.”

“Every electricity dollar that is sent to the hydro company is another dollar not invested in education, groceries or a family trip. Why pay more than you need to if you can get the same benefits while using less?”

This principled and practical approach to his home life translates directly into his work at Woodstock Hydro. His family has achieved a lot as has the utility. The great news is that everyone can be part of the energy transition.

Resilience through local smart grids and distributed generation

Energy efficiency and conservation is the first step. Localizing energy generation and making our grid smarter with two-way communication and storage is the second, and has the potential to make our homes and communities more resilient.

“Thinking back to the ice storm of December 2013, many people could have kept their heating and lights on without the power grid for several days if they had a small amount of energy storage and a source of renewable power.” Mr. Heaman explains.

“Of course many of us don’t….yet!”, he continued, “In many homes critical loads such as a gas furnace, lighting and refrigeration can consume as little as 1.5 kWh per day (roughly the same as a blow dryer run on high for an hour!).”

A typical solar residential rooftop system generates around 3kw. More than enough power to keep the heat and other essentials on.

Woodstock Hydro and Ryerson University’s collaboration

As we continued to talk it was clear that Jay believes that the public desperately needs information about the opportunities available and how to access them so that they can participate too.

To advance this objective, he explained that Woodstock Hydro has partnered with Ryerson University, “Have you ever asked yourself or wondered how much electricity could be generated right on top of your own home? Ryerson is developing an Internet tool to help potential solar owners calculate their roof’s potential.”

Woodstock Hydro’s customers can now easily assess whether their roof is suitable for solar and what it’s potential generating capacity and financial benefits will be under the Independent Electricity System Operator’s Micro Feed-in Tariff program.

Local generation is an opportunity for residents and municipalities

Throughout our discussion Jay spoke a lot about collaboration with a community in Germany.

“Communities around the world are striving for and reaching 100% net renewable energy. It is possible and already exists!”

In fact according to Go 100 Percent ( 8 countries, 49 cities, 56 regions, 8 utilities, 21 non-profit and public institutions and more than 50.4 million people, are now committed to the transition to a 100% sustainable energy system.

Jay emphasized that, “Some communities in Denmark and Germany are generating as much electricity as they require over the course of a year from renewable energy technologies and as a result are creating local employment and retaining millions of dollars within the local economy. The benefits of self-generation from a personal and community perspective are massive.”

OSEA’s 20/20 Roadmap Blog has details about several other jurisdictions leading the way to 100% sustainable energy like El Hierro in the Canary Islands and Juehnde the bio-energy town in Germany Another great source of information is the Samsø Island Energy Academy in Denmark

Plug in and move

During the course of the interview Mr. Heaman shared some of the innovative work Woodstock Hydro has been involved in regarding electric mobility and the challenges associated with the rapidly emerging technology.

Here is how he described their cool car story:

“Electric mobility is expected to increase significantly over the next few years representing both an opportunity and a risk to electric utility companies. In the fall of 2012, Woodstock Hydro purchased a Nissan Leaf electric car for the purpose of studying the potential impact of wide-scale electric vehicle (EV) charging on our transformers and wires.”

“We installed a 3.5 KW solar array connected to an EV charging station to determine how much renewable energy was required to support the Leaf as a fleet vehicle for a year. Over the past two years our Leaf has travelled roughly 6,000 km/year. Amazingly, we’ve come to the conclusion that the current 3.5 KW system could support up to three Nissan Leafs per year!”

So what conclusions has the team at Woodstock Hydro reached?

“EVs will be a game changer and we may not be prepared to handle a rapidly increasing number of EVs charging using the grid, but we could be. Woodstock Hydro is continuing to explore how best to improve its infrastructure and support of EVs.” Jay continues, “Imagine what opportunity that awaits all of us if we installed solar at home and at our places of work so that we could commute without having to buy gas ever again!”

If you are interested in learning more about the initiative you may want to watch this Woodstock Hydro video:

and check fellow OSEA member, Sun Country Highway who is profile in the video at

Sharing the Woodstock Hydro Story at Green Energy Doors Open

For the past several years Woodstock Hydro has participated in the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association’s annual Green Energy Doors Open (, showcasing the amazing work that has made them one of the province’s leading utilities and sustainable energy champions.

This past year’s tour involved seven-stations that provided visiting customers the opportunity to learn about smart energy management, conservation and renewable energy.

First Stop: The Whites Lane Sustainable Energy Trailer

The Woodstock Hydro Sustainable Energy Expo trailer was designed to educate customers in the community about energy storage, renewable energy, conservation and smart grid solutions through interactive multimedia resources. The approach is to show visitors the basics and how sustainable energy will impact their lives at home.

Second Stop: Solar 101

The second station was hosted by Arntjen Solar North America. Visitors had the opportunity to discuss current technologies, learn how they can become solar generators themselves and what the future holds for rapidly evolving hi-tech solar technologies.

Third Stop: Smart metering 101

At the third stop of the tour visitors had the opportunity to meet with Woodstock Hydro’s IT wizards who look after the utilities smart meters and data management. The team shared how better understanding usage patterns and the two way flow of energy and information is helping the utility help its customers reduce their energy usage while making the power system more responsible, reliable and resilient.

Fourth Stop: Whites Lane MicroGrid

Woodstock Hydro’s Whites Lane MicroGrid project is showing how the future of electricity is already here. At the fourth stop of the tour visitors were shown this short video about the Whites Lane initiative:

Fifth Stop: Ryerson Solar modeling

The Fifth Stop on the tour was a stop with Ryerson students involved in the development of the Solar Assessment tool who are now working on a 3D modeling tool for rooftop design. As noted earlier in the interview, Woodstock Hydro and Ryerson University have developed an online solar modeling tool specifically for Woodstock residents. Customers can complete a high level assessment of their rooftop to determine their solar energy potential with other innovations coming soon to local customers.

Sixth Stop: Whites Lane Building

At the sixth stop customers had the opportunity to view components of the Whites Lane MicroGrid project that are now operational as well as to learn more about the next stages of the initiative.

Seventh Stop: Solar canopy

Imagine generating all of the electricity you need to commute to work from solar power. At the seventh stop customers were able to view a solar canopy and learn how much solar power would be required to power your electric car for a year.

Watch and attend in 2015 to Learn More

The Woodstock Hydro team have produced a great video showcasing 2014 Green Energy Doors Open sharing some of the highlights that can be found here:

Green Energy Doors Open 2015 is just beginning to shape up. If you would like to attend one of the more than 100 events, host your own or support the growing national sustainable energy showcase visit

The key is getting everyone involved

Jay Heaman and the team at Woodstock Hydro are doing amazing work. As we wrapped up the interview Jay emphasized that:

“Our best initiatives are those that engage our stakeholders and customers. We have a lot of brilliant minds shaping concepts and ideas into vision, plans and action as demonstrated during Green Energy Doors Open. The key to our success really lies in the contribution of people from many departments, our Board, the support of the municipality that owns Woodstock Hydro and of course our customers.”

Woodstock Hydro is one of Ontario’s sustainable energy leaders! The opportunities for sustainable energy development in Ontario have never been better. To power our prosperity we must work together to maximize the benefits and help more communities and utilities learn from Woodstock’s leadership.

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