The federal government is promising to triple the pace of Canada’s energy efficiency improvements to 3% per year, and the country’s energy efficiency advocacy network, Efficiency Canada, is out with a three-point plan to get started down that path.
In a release Wednesday, Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan said Canada is joining the Three Percent Club, an international grouping of governments, private firms, and financial institutions committing to the 3% per year annual target. “Improvements in energy efficiency will account for 40% of the emissions reductions that Canada and its international partners committed to in Paris,” O’Regan said. By joining the club, “Canada is committing to a 3% improvement in energy efficiency every year and helping Canadians fight climate change in tangible, accessible ways where they live, work, and play.”
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But it isn’t clear whether that target “would be met primarily through the kind of national building retrofit program that the [International Energy Agency] and other agencies are pushing,” Business in Vancouver notes. “The government press release does not specifically mention a building retrofit program.”
Efficiency Canada points to the gap between the target and the country’s past performance. “Currently, Canada’s economy-wide energy intensity has improved at an annual rate of 1% from 1990-2016, meaning Canada must triple energy efficiency efforts in order to reach this goal,” the organization states.
The Efficiency Canada release points to energy efficiency jobs as a way to address the outsized impact of the COVID-19 recession on women’s unemployment, adding that a tripling of energy efficiency measures would contribute to a just, green recovery by addressing energy poverty. “The potential for energy efficiency to help Canada’s economy recover while meeting our international climate targets is unparalleled,” Executive Director Corey Diamond said in a release.
The organization is calling for three immediate steps toward the 3% goals: training to help unemployed people enter the energy efficiency work force, provincial and municipal energy efficiency programs, and “strategic public investments to build a market for energy efficiency retrofit investments” through the Canada Infrastructure Bank and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. In a sustainable recovery plan developed along with the International Monetary Fund, the IEA estimated that a $1-million investment in home energy retrofits creates nine to 30 jobs, Business in Vancouver says.
“A national retrofit program would also spread the spending across Canada, whereas many other greenhouse gas mitigation projects may only benefit a specific region,” the paper adds. And “once energy efficiency investments are made, they may result in lower utility costs to homeowners.”
It is worth reading the chapter on energy efficiency in Mark Jaccard’s book “The Citizen’s Guide to Climate Success” I can give two examples of my own:
I had an old fridge that worked for decades without repair. Eventually it quit. I bought a new high-efficiency modern fridge. It was nice but after its second breakdown, age eleven years, the price of repair was almost as much as a new identical fridge, so I bought a new one. The guarantee was only one year! (Buying it was my mistake).
A friend of mine built a new house, including a new high-efficiency gas furnace. After about fifteen (?) years it quit for the second time and the repairman could not fix it. A new furnace was bought with a ten-year warranty. It quit after ten years and three months. Repairs were going to be uncertain and expensive, so my friend bought a new furnace, one not quite so efficient. Three furnaces bought. Meanwhile the gas furnace in my house works fine and is over 36 years old. When considering greenhouse -gas emissions one must include the emissions during manufacture and transport of the new high-efficiency short-lifetime appliances. I do not know which comes out ahead, old or new.
What we need are warranties good for several decades on high-efficiency appliances.