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