Ontario’s energy efficiency potential is vast, clean and cheap

Embracing energy efficiency is the lowest cost way to keep our lights on

Energy efficiency programs can meet our needs at a lower cost than just about any other energy solution.  It costs Ontario less than 2 cents per kilowatt hour to improve efficiency and eliminate the need to generate the same amount of electricity.  These low-cost “negawatts” help us avoid the need to build expensive new electricity generation infrastructure while also saving residents and businesses money by lowering bills.

Ontario was a leader in developing cost-effective energy efficiency programs and our local utilities have developed innovative programs to help businesses and residents reduce their energy demand — and their bills. But under the Ford Government, energy efficiency budgets have been slashed by 60%.  Incentives for everything from building retrofits to improving lighting in schools have been cut.  These cuts make little sense as improving energy efficiency is a win-win-win.  It lowers our overall electricity system costs, it reduces bills for energy consumers and it creates jobs throughout the province.

We have only scratched the surface of what we achieve with robust energy efficiency efforts. A 2018 study found that spending 3.3 cents per kWh on energy efficiency efforts could result in saving 17 billion kWh of power a year — equal to about half of the projected output of all of Ontario’s gas-fired power plants in 2030. The same study found that we could cut demand by a further 7 billion kWh by 2038 for less than 4 cents per kWh. New technologies like air source heat pumps can make our electricity use far more efficient.

These are just the savings available if we pay close the average historical rate for efficiency efforts.  If instead, we decided to pay closer to what we are paying for nuclear energy today — 9.6 cents per kWh (let alone what power from OPG’s proposed GTA reactor would cost – 16.3 cents) we could save magnitudes more energy and avoid the need for expensive nuclear projects and their radioactive waste.

A green jobs generator

Improving the energy efficiency of our homes, buildings and factories is a big jobs generator with even bigger future potential.  Already, the energy efficiency sector employs close to half-a-million people in Canada and involves 50,000 enterprises. Sector employment is growing at more than twice the average employment growth rate in Canada.

A study by Efficiency Canada found that if we aggressively scale up our efficiency efforts to meet Canada’s climate targets, we could create 118,000 to 175,000 new jobs, on an average annual basis, between 2020 and 2030.  Whether it is manufacturing energy efficient windows, insulating homes or programming smart controls and energy management systems, there are a huge variety of jobs in the sector.  In fact, employers in the sector are crying out for help — whether it is trained building assessors or software engineers.

Technology is also reshaping our energy efficiency efforts.  Everything from LED lighting to smart controls is making it easier to use energy more efficiently.  LED lights use 10% of the energy consumed by old incandescent lighting and can be integrated with occupancy sensors to reduce energy demand even further. From motors that adjust to the work that needs to be done to heat pumps that slash the energy needed to heat our homes, innovations that save energy are rapidly advancing.  The U.S. Department of Energy prepared this video on some cutting edge energy innovations, from magnetically cooled refrigerators to reflective roofs (or maybe solar roofs).