The Globe and Mail
January 8, 2013
Keith Leslie

Data on energy use by Ontario schools to made public after call by watchdog 

Hours after the release of a report by Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller, the Ministry of Education said late Tuesday that data on schools’ energy use would be made public by July 1.

Ontario school boards could save a lot of money with conservation programs if the government would publicly release data on schools’ energy usage, Mr. Miller said.

The Liberal government had to abandon its goal to reduce school energy use by 10 per cent after some schools could not measure consumption, so it collected data on the electricity and natural gas usage at every school in the province, but refused to make the data public.

“Why not release it to the public?” Mr. Miller asked as he released his annual report on conservation.

“There’s no shame here. This was not done deliberately. Releasing it to the public allows the public to engage with the boards of education to say where can we find savings.”

The Simcoe Country district school board in Barrie cut energy use by 16 per cent and saved $500,000 a year by replacing windows and boilers and improving heating and air conditioning equipment in just one-third of its schools.

More money could be spent on in-class education if the government and school boards used the data that shows different levels of energy efficiency in different school buildings to improve efforts to reduce their electricity and natural gas bills, said Mr. Miller.

“We’re talking, across the province, boards of education spend $300-million a year on energy, so those kinds of magnitude are serious money,” he said.

“And that’s just the education facilities. It’s not hospitals, not other government buildings or commercial buildings.”

Private companies could use the school data to spot opportunities for their services that reduce energy consumption and save boards money, he added.

“The way to engage a conservation culture in the public is to get them engaged in the numbers,” he said.

New Democrat energy critic Peter Tabuns said the Liberals “fumbled the ball on conservation.”

Miller also criticized the Liberals for not keeping their conservation promises in the Green Energy Act, focusing on new generation of electricity instead, and said he couldn’t understand why the government would not do more to promote conservation programs.

“You ask me why we’re not doing it, you’re asking the wrong guy,” he told reporters. “Ask them why they’re not doing it, why isn’t it government policy. They promised this in 2009.”

The Progressive Conservatives also lashed out at the Liberals for not following through on their promise to create “a culture of conservation” in Ontario.

“We’ve seen what the Liberals’ ‘build more’ energy policy has gotten us: nearly $1-billion of taxpayers’ money wasted on cancelling the Mississauga and Oakville natural gas plants to save Liberal seats,” said PC critic Michael Harris.

“The Liberals consistently look for the highest cost option, whether it’s investing in their ideologically driven green-energy program or making politically motivated decisions to cancel gas plants.”

The Green Party also said the Liberals should have done a lot more to promote energy conservation.

“The government’s failure to invest in energy conservation is costing us money,” said Green Leader Mike Schreiner.

“And with record deficits, I think it’s completely irresponsible that the government is not investing in conservation programs that will save us money.”

The Ontario Clean Air Alliance says the Liberals have caved to the powerful nuclear lobby instead of investing in energy conservation.