Ontario losing energy efficiency leadership

Ontario Premier Doug Ford attends Question Period in Ontario Legislature on October 29, 2019. Photograph by The Canadian Press / Chris Young

Last week [Dec 4, 2019] the Auditor General of Ontario issued a critical assessment of the province’s Environment Plan. The report noted Ontario’s historical leadership in reducing emissions, and that policy cancellations will prevent the province from continuing to push emissions down.

We found a similar story in our comparative review of provincial energy efficiency policies in Efficiency Canada’s first Provincial Energy Efficiency Policy ScorecardOntario ranked third overall but would have scored higher, if the Ford government had not cancelled or diminished efficiency enhancing policies.

The scorecard focuses on how we use energy. We want energy systems to give us warmth, light, mobility, and productivity, and it makes sense to deliver these services in a way that avoids the economic and environmental consequences of wasting energy. If we save enough, we avoid more expensive and polluting energy production options, such as power plants, fuel burning, and energy distribution networks. While nuclear plants and wind turbines get a lot of attention, the energy we save is a large part of the climate solution that often flies under the political radar.

Competitive ranking undermined by policy backtracks

Our 190-page report benchmarked provinces on recent energy savings outcomes and energy efficiency policies in place from January 2018 to June 2019. This means our scorecard included Ontario’s Canadian-leading results from programs to upgrade buildings and industry and to ensure consumers buy the most efficient products on the market. In 2017, the Independent Electricity System Operator and local distribution companies saved 1.4% of annual sales, double the national average. Ontario also had the second highest natural gas savings relative to sales in 2016. These results were achieved under the Conservation First Framework, which the Ford government cancelled while also reducing the electricity savings program budget by half. Reducing electricity conservation could increase emissions from natural gas electricity generation, as detailed in the final Environmental Commissioner’s report, creating a new hole in the Ford government’s Environment Plan.

The indicators we used also show that Ontario has the standards, data, and people needed to make big cuts in energy waste. Ontario has some of the country’s highest performance building and equipment standards, the second highest number of certified energy managers per business in the country, and is the only province that requires large building owners to report energy usage. However, the Ford government now proposes to stop rolling out energy reporting and benchmarking for buildings under 100,000 square feet, which will lead to lost energy savings opportunities.

Many of the changes noted in the Auditor General’s report resulted in lower points in our scorecard. This includes repealing a building code provision to enable electric vehicle charging infrastructure in homes, canceling the cap-and-trade system, which had raised revenues to support efficiency programs, and the end of programs to encourage electric vehicle purchases and charging infrastructure.

New opportunities for energy efficiency leadership

However, the Ford government’s Environment Plan includes energy efficiency proposals that would see Ontario regain its leadership position. First, the plan includes an expansion of natural gas conservation programs. To implement this policy, the government needs to require the Ontario Energy Board to maximize energy savings potential. That means considering emission reductions and prioritizing energy savings over new natural gas infrastructure and more expensive supply side options.

Second, the Ontario plan also includes an Emission Reduction Fund (referred to as the Ontario Carbon Trust) to provide financing and spur greater private investment in energy efficiency. This idea was criticized for the “reverse auction” proposal that would pay industries to reduce pollution. However, $350 of the $400 million was earmarked for originating emission reduction projects and then co-investing in them with the private sector. “Green banks” in New York and Connecticut are demonstrating this can be a smart and effective way to upgrade buildings.

The Auditor General’s report and our scorecard shows there is more work to be done. Ontario could regain its lost energy efficiency leadership if it follows through on the plans noted above while recognizing the importance of energy efficiency in transportation, buildings, and industry to deliver emission reductions and a prosperous economy. SOURCE

Energy efficiency is key to climate action, but which provinces are leading the way?

Energy efficiency: Canada’s ‘unsung hero’ of climate action

(Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

When it comes to action on climate change, a lot of emphasis is put on finding ways to green the power grid. One of the lesser-known strategies of reducing emissions, however, is focusing on energy efficiency — that is, building or retrofitting structures and vehicles so they use as little power as possible.

“I don’t think it’s discussed enough. It’s the unsung hero of Canada’s energy system,” said Brendan Haley, policy director of Efficiency Canada, who said that energy efficiency could represent 40 per cent of the emissions reductions needed to meet the targets of the Paris Accord.

The federal government has recognized the importance of energy efficiency, and cites it specifically in its Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. “But it’s really the provinces that are the implementers,” said Haley.

With this in mind, Efficiency Canada released a scorecard this week comparing how each province is doing across a broad list of categories, including “Energy Efficiency Programs,” “Enabling Policies,” “Buildings,” “Transportation” and “Industry.”

Out of a score of 100, British Columbia finished first, followed by Quebec and Ontario. Here’s the overall ranking:

1.     B.C. (56 points)

2.     Quebec (48)

3.     Ontario (47)

4.     Nova Scotia (45)

5.     Manitoba (32)

6.     Alberta (30)

7.     Prince Edward Island (26)

8.     New Brunswick (24)

9.     Saskatchewan (18)

10. Newfoundland and Labrador (15)

While B.C. scored well in most categories, Haley said the western province is really ahead on the issue of buildings. That’s largely a result of B.C.’s Energy Step Code policy, which “provides a clear path” toward net-zero energy-ready building standards.

Quebec did well in the transportation category as a result of being what Efficiency Canada calls “the country’s vehicle electrification leader,” thanks to its support of electric vehicle sales and for helping develop a robust charging network.

One of Canada’s underappreciated performers is Nova Scotia, which has gone a long way in establishing provincial energy-efficiency programs, Haley said.

The province was early in recognizing the potential. In the mid-2000s, Nova Scotia looked ahead to future power demand and determined it could either meet it through traditional means, which meant building carbon-emitting power plants, or it could tackle the problem through greater efficiency.

Results showed that greater efficiency would avoid the need to build an additional coal plant, and save an estimated $1 billion. The province ended up making saving energy a focus through the creation of a utility known as Efficiency Nova Scotia, and spurred growth in green jobs in a new energy savings sector.

One of the beneficiaries of that was Dwaine MacDonald, co-founder of Trinity Energy Group in Stellarton, N.S., which works on making commercial and residential buildings more energy-efficient. Since MacDonald and his partners launched the company in 2006, Trinity has grown to 80 full-time employees. Not only is business good, but other regions have taken notice of Nova Scotia’s expertise.

“Efficiency Nova Scotia is now known as a world leader in these programs,” said MacDonald, citing Alberta and Ontario, as well as U.S. states like Maine, as some of the jurisdictions that have sought guidance. “Nobody has been able to touch what Nova Scotia has done. It’s extremely impressive.”

Given the sector’s potential, Haley fully admitted that Efficiency Canada put out the scorecard with an eye to “trying to get some friendly competition going amongst the provinces to improve energy efficiency.” SOURCE

Meeting Paris Agreement Targets Would Create 24 Million Jobs Globally

A rapid transition to clean energy would create, not eliminate, jobs.

This month, when diplomats met in Poland to negotiate the implementation of the Paris Agreement, the United States took on the role of the villain. The United States, which plans to formally withdraw from the pact, rejected a landmark scientific report and touted the need for fossil fuels. Why? In justifying his opposition to the Paris Agreement, Trump has repeatedly said that it will eliminate millions of U.S. jobs.

According to research, however, his position is unfounded, especially over the long term. By working to achieve the stated goal of the Paris Agreement, to limit warming to 2 degrees C, most countries will see a net gain in employment.

“Our findings show that if we take action to limit climate change, we will have more jobs by 2030 than by not doing anything,” said Guillermo Montt, author of the study and a senior economist in the research department of the International Labor Office, a special UN agency that focuses on labor issues. “More jobs will be created than those that are lost, so the economy and countries as a whole stand to gain.”

The study, which appears in the journal International Labour Review, found that accelerating the transition to clean energy could add 24 million jobs globally by 2030. In reaching their conclusions, Montt and his colleagues developed a model of the world economy to reflect how it would look with widespread adoption of renewables and enhanced energy efficiency. They found the impact in the renewables sector will ripple across other industries, such as construction and manufacturing.

“Energy is related to many other sectors in the economy. Changes in energy affect the rest of the economy as well, affecting jobs all over,” Montt said. “Also, there are more jobs in a world with renewables and energy efficiency because we need more workers to produce one gigawatt-hour of electricity from renewables than from fossil fuels.” MORE

Energy efficiency makes sense and it doesn’t need a carbon tax

Energy efficiency should be seen as a resource and is one of the cheapest ways to save money, say columnists.POSTMEDIA

You can find thousands of Albertans working in energy efficiency if you look in the right places. They work in industries you might not think of as “green,” like construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, professional and business services and utilities.

These are Albertans like Obi Sadden: In the 1970s, he was a firefighter for the oil and gas industry. Losing his job in the downturn of the 1980s, he was hired by a friend to install insulation. By 2004, he had started his own company — Energy Plus Insulation — which is now a thriving small business in his home of Medicine Hat. Sadden is an energy efficiency worker: Local businesses like his grow when this sector is made a policy priority.

The 51,711 Canadian energy efficiency establishments studied by Calgary’s ECO-Canada in 2019 generated $82.6 billion in revenue and $14.9 billion in employment income. It is projected that the Canadian energy efficiency workforce — numbering around 436,000 in 2018 — will swell by 36,000 this year. Employment in this sector grew by at nearly three times the growth of the rest of the economy.

Energy efficiency touches every part of the economy. A recent study from the University of Calgary found that Canada’s oil and gas sector, for example, is actually outperforming agri-food in terms of the efficiency of its end products.

One of the easiest ways to understand energy efficiency is to see it as a resource. It only costs 2.4 cents to save a kilowatt-hour of electricity in Alberta: This is cheaper than recent wind and solar procurements (although those prices are at historic lows), and cheaper than fossil fuels. If we think of efficiency as the “first fuel,” it is our least expensive source of energy. MORE

The serious $70 BILLION climate plan you’ve heard nothing about

Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna and Equiterre co-founder Steven Guilbeault attend an announcement at global Clean Energy Ministerial meetings in Vancouver on May 29, 2019. Photo by Jennifer Gauthier

When the prime minister’s long-awaited announcement approving the twinning of the Trans Mountain pipeline finally came, few citizens concerned about environmental hazards and climate change could cheer it.

Nor could many Indigenous communities applaud ⁠— so many of those that signed agreements with the project felt enormous pressure to salvage at least some benefit, skinny as it might be.

The whole exercise has both exhausted and galvanized opponents, and few minds will be changed by any commentary.

‘For many Canadians, blocking TMX became synonymous with winning the climate war. If you support the pipeline, you’re a sellout. If you don’t, you’re a climate hero. If only things were that simple,’ writes @garossino #opinion

And yet.

There’s an extraordinarily compelling case to be made for Trudeau’s climate plan, and how the TMX pipeline fits into the bigger picture.

We have to do better than rally around symbols. We have to do the much harder work of changing the game.

The fight we can’t afford to lose

The real front line in the climate war is our transition to clean energy, as demand for all forms of energy, including oil, continues its inexorable rise.

This is the fight the world can’t afford to lose, and we’re losing it.

In 2018, the International Energy Agency issued a stark warning that governmental neglect of renewable energy constitutes a grave threat to the Paris Accord. The IEA estimates that clean energy will only account for 18 per cent of world consumption by 2040, well below the 28 per cent needed to meet the Paris goals, and global investments have stalled.

The chart below, from Natural Resources Canada, tells the story: only eight to 11 per cent of our energy production is in clean energy.

This is the chart we must change dramatically, and very quickly.

It’s here, in the fight for clean energy transition, that the Canadian government has amassed a stunning war chest of more than $60 billion, with billions more on the way.

Source: Natural Resources Canada

The plan is to add up to $10 billion in TMX-generated tax revenue to this fight. In a nutshell, the government aims to help provide consumers and industry with affordable clean alternative options to complement and accelerate carbon tax impacts, while supporting jobs and investor confidence.

The $70-billion plan

Here’s what the Canadian government has already committed to do, according to the Department of Finance: MORE

Why Don’t You Have an Electric Bike Already?

The Bloomfield Bicycle Company’s Guide to Cycling in the County maps several PEC road routes  for cyclists to enjoy. [See video below] Now ebikes are available from local vendors and offer an additional way to get around and enjoy our island treasure.  But as this article explains, using an ebike as your go-to mode of transportation also comes with a raft of health benefits.  They’re fun. Really fun. And they’re the most energy efficient mode of travel on the planet.

If you’re already making most of your daily trips by bike or on foot, you don’t need to read further. An electric bike is unlikely to improve your life. For everyone else, read on!

Would you like to be stronger and smarter? Would you like to be happier and healthier? Would you like to keep depression at bay without medication? Would you like to reduce your stress by 40% and sleep better? Would you like to do all this in everyday clothes, without sweating, and have fun while you’re at it?

It’s time to get an electric bike. It will change your life. Seriously. I’m not kidding.

The benefits to cycling are legion. If a pill or a gadget could make you happy, improve your immune function, make you less likely to take sick days, make you less likely to get depressed, cure your depression better than current medications, give you more energy throughout the day, help you sleep, improve your skin, promote your brain health, prevent heart disease and type 2 diabetes, prevent dementia, reverse heart disease and diabetes, prevent multiple kinds of cancer, help you age well, and help you stay mobile and active until a few short years before your death, you would see people standing in line for days to purchase it. But the fact is exercise can accomplish all of the above for you. Indeed, 30 minutes of exercise a day is basically a wonder drug that is cheap, available to all, and has few side effects. Since you already have errands and commutes to do, walking or biking these trips is an easy way to ensure you get your vital 30 minutes a day. I’m a big fan of walking, but due to how our poorly US suburbs are designed (as opposed to The Ten Minute Neighborhood) most people can do few of their daily trips on foot. However, daily trips on an e-bike are very doable because e-bikes are just that great. Even better, they’re fun. Really fun. And they’re the most energy efficient mode of travel on the planet. MORE

Global economy would save up to $160 trillion by shifting to renewables, electric cars

“Every dollar spent on energy transition would pay off up to seven times.”


Imagine a world where 85% of all electricity comes from renewable sources, there are over one billion electric vehicles on the road, and we are on track to preserve a livable climate for our children and future generations.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) reported this week that such a future is not merely possible by 2050, but thanks to plummeting prices in key clean energy technologies, the cost of saving the climate has dropped dramatically.

In fact, according to IRENA’s new report, the most cost-effective strategy to achieve a “climate-safe future” — keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) — is an accelerated energy transition to renewables and energy efficiency coupled with electrification of key sectors like transportation.

This Renewable Energy Roadmap (REmap) scenario “would also save the global economy up to USD 160 trillion cumulatively over the next 30 years in avoided health costs, energy subsidies and climate damages.” MORE

Ford government increasing energy bills and pollution, says watchdog in final report

Dianne Saxe, Environmental Commissioner in Queen’s Park, Ontario on Dec. 6, 2018. Photo by Cole Burston

The Ontario government is increasing energy bills, air pollution, health impacts and greenhouse gas emissions through policies that promote the use of fossil fuels, says the province’s environmental commissioner, Dianne Saxe, in her final report released on March 27, 2019.

Her report notes that the economy in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, relies on fossil fuels for 75 per cent of its energy, which results in a “hefty” health, economic and environmental pricetag.

Under the previous Liberal government, she said this pricetag added up to $24 billion each year to import fossil fuels such as oil, petroleum products and natural gas, between 2010 to 2015.

“If we were even 10 per cent more efficient, Ontarians could save from $1.6 billion to $2 billion every year,” Saxe said in a statement.

But she also noted that Ontario had been making progress in measures to encourage the conservation of energy since 2007. At least until last week, when she said that the Ford government cancelled and reduced funding for “proven, effective conservation programs.”

The report is likely the last one to be published by Saxe in her current role. She is expected to leave on April 1 as the Ford government proceeds with plans to reduce powers of her position and merge it into the office of the auditor general. MORE