Aggressive support for energy efficiency across the economy could cut Canada’s total energy consumption by 15% by 2035, even with a growing population and rising wealth, the Conference Board of Canada says in a new report. Its author blames Canadians’ “behavioural failures” for passing up those savings.
On the country’s current track, National Energy Board figures show energy demand growing by an average of 0.7% a year through 2040. That places Canada “among the most energy-intensive of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, as well as among the highest greenhouse gas emitters per dollar of GDP produced,” reports CleanTech Canada.
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Key opportunities for energy savings include “lighting, space heating, and household electronics for residences,” CleanTech Canada adds, “while in the commercial sector, lighting, computer, and HVAC equipment hold the most promise.”
Most energy efficiency and conservation measures in Canada are sponsored by electricity and natural gas utilities, the Conference Board found. A broader suite of policies could include “land use measures, equipment and building performance standards, and renewable subsidies.”
Despite their association with a range of benefits, “energy efficient measures have not been fully adopted to the extent that it would be economically efficient to do so,” suggested Len Coad, the Conference Board’s energy research director, “in part due to market and consumers’ behavioural failures.”
The Board notes, however, that the contribution of energy efficiency to reducing Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions would be relatively slight compared to other countries.
“Electricity in Canada currently comes from sources that are approximately 80% renewable or that are very low-emission, and this could be near 100% by 2035,” CleanTech Canada notes. As a result, reducing electricity consumption would have little impact on national emissions. [In any event, increased demand from electric cars and commercial trucks is likely to more than offset any efficiency-driven reductions in existing demand sectors/Eds.]
The bigger contribution to reduced GHG emissions from energy efficiency, the Board notes, will be “to reduce the need for hydrocarbons to provide heat.”
Earlier this year, a separate study by three Ontario environmental NGOs determined that the province would likely see up to 65,000 new jobs created over the next five years in the building sector alone from its planned investment of C$1.91 billion to $2.73 billion in energy efficiency.
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