A Culture of Conservation: Ontario’s Ongoing Progress
By Neisha Smith, Research and Project Assistant, Energy Exchange
On May 31st, 2016, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO), Dianne Saxe, released the Annual Energy Conservation Progress Report. This report addresses Ontario’s current reliance on fossil fuels and hopes to inform improved energy efficiency policy in the province.
Read the Report
Have you ever thought of energy conservation as an energy resource? It is one of the simplest and least expensive ways that we can reduce our negative impacts on the environment. With urgent action needed to address climate change in the near term, the ECO’s 2015/2016 report, Conservation: Let’s Get Serious examines Ontario’s current energy conservation measures and recommends a progressive course forward. According to the report, modernizing Ontario’s approach to energy conservation will be key to the province’s climate action.
Energy conservation is using less energy while energy efficiency is using energy more wisely.”
The ECO’s report takes a critical look at the province’s current dependence on fossil fuels and emphasizes the need to improve energy efficiency within Ontario’s existing buildings, offering key recommendations to get there. It brings together existing research and data, and presents key recommendations to improve Ontario’s approach to conservation, including:
- Increase efforts to conserve energy sources that are less efficient – transportation fuels and natural gas.
- Adopt formal reduction targets and modify dated policies to reflect and enforce the progress made to combat climate change.
- Set efficiency standards for products that waste water and energy, and enforce standards that would support government transparency on target development.
According to the ECO’s report, transportation fuel (primarily gasoline and diesel) and natural gas made up approximately 73% of Ontario’s energy use in 2014. Ontario continues to provide half a billion dollars in annual fossil fuel subsidies through tax breaks.
The ECO report revealed that, in 2014, 91% of commercial and institutional buildings used natural gas and electricity with almost 60% of total energy used for heating. However, estimation’s showed that if all broader public sector buildings performed as efficiently as the top quarter of their building type, taxpayers could save $450 million and 1 megatonne of GHG emissions annually.
A megatonne (Mt) is defined as 1 million tonnes or 1 billion kilograms.
The common thread in the report is the need to change our use of fossil fuels in everyday processes. In the fight against climate change, changes in human behaviour are needed to conserve energy and to reduce our reliance on energy derived from fossil fuels. Conservation of transportation fuel and improving energy efficiency in buildings will have a significant and cost-effective impact on Ontario’s carbon footprint.
To avoid the significant risks of human-induced climate change, the ECO’s suggests implementing the energy conservation key recommendations presented in the report straight away, encouraging more energy conservation as well as modifying energy efficiency policies, and continuing to pursue the low-carbon avenues.