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Energy Conservation - The Opportunities in a Large and Unfinished Agenda

Monday, May 3rd 2010 10:49:17am

For Immediate Release                                               
                
Energy Conservation - The Opportunities in a Large and Unfinished Agenda

Queens's Park, May 3, 2010 - Ontario needs a comprehensive energy conservation strategy developed with public participation, to guide energy conservation activity and measure progress.  This is one of the conclusions in the report tabled by Gord Miller, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO), before the Ontario Legislature today.

"The government's approach to energy conservation appears uncoordinated and improvised, with no clear plan," warns Miller in the report, Annual Energy Conservation Progress Report - 2009, Volume One.  "We are too focused on electricity," says Miller.  "We need a strategy that addresses conservation of all sources of energy.  We already consume much more energy for transportation than we do for electricity, and most future growth in Ontario's energy consumption is expected to come from the transportation sector."

In electricity, the one energy sector where Ontario had begun developing a long-term plan, Miller notes that uncertainty prevails. The development of the Integrated Power System Plan has been suspended, and the role that it will play in guiding electricity conservation action is not known. In the absence of an approved Plan, the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure has set electricity conservation policy on an ad hoc basis, with little opportunity for public input.  

Responding to his newly assigned duty to review progress on energy conservation, the Commissioner's report lays out action needed if Ontario is to build a meaningful and enduring culture of conservation in the province.

The report examines the policy framework governing conservation for electricity, natural gas, oil, propane and transportation fuels, makes seven specific recommendations, and lays out a four-point agenda for the province.

-30-

For further information contact:


Hayley Easto, Communications and Outreach Coordinator
Office of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario
Tel: (416) 325-3371
Toll free inquiry line: 1-800-701-6454
hayley.easto@eco.on.ca

Aussi disponible en fran├žais  

BACKGROUNDER

Under the Green Energy and Green Economy Act, 2009, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO) has a new responsibility to report annually to the Speaker of the Assembly on the progress of activities in Ontario to reduce or make more efficient use of electricity, natural gas, propane, oil and transportation fuels. The ECO is also required to review the progress in meeting any government-established targets to reduce energy consumption and increase efficient use of these fuels, as well as to identify barriers to conservation and energy efficiency.

The ECO's first energy conservation report covers the period January 1, 2009 to December 31, 2009, and will be issued as two separate documents.

This report, Volume One, covers the broader policy framework and operational issues affecting energy conservation in Ontario. It raises policy issues that need resolution, requests certain policy actions that are necessary if the ECO is to fulfill its mandate, and points to potential gaps, weaknesses and uncertainties in the policy framework. Volume Two, a separate report to be issued later in 2010, will describe initiatives underway, assess the energy savings that have been achieved and measure progress on targets.
Report Findings

This report summarizes Ontario's energy consumption trends, provides an overview of energy conservation and its benefits, and urges development of a comprehensive, multi-fuel energy conservation strategy.

The report then examines the policy framework governing conservation on a fuel-by-fuel basis, looking at electricity, natural gas, propane and oil, and transportation fuels. Also reviewed are the conservation elements of the Green Energy and Green Economy Act, 2009, and the issue of targets and benchmarking for the energy sector.

Ontario's use of transportation fuel is unsustainable.  Because transportation fuels are the single largest use of energy in Ontario and are forecast to grow, the report suggests that Ontario's conservation efforts in this sector need to be drastically scaled up.  Approaches that have not been considered now need to be part of the conservation agenda.  To address energy use and emissions from the transport sector, the report suggests that a wide variety of actions like vehicle standards, low carbon fuels, transit, road pricing, tax policies and others be considered.

There is a need for the government to clarify the role of its demand-supply electricity plan (called the Integrated Power System Plan, or IPSP) that has been delayed and under revision for more than a year.  Until the IPSP is available, Ontarians do not know the plans for electricity conservation.  The report provides suggestions to open up access and include the public in electricity conservation policy development.  Also, government agencies responsible for delivering conservation initiatives should be publicly accountable for their performance.  

The ECO urges Ontario's energy regulator - the Ontario Energy Board - to incorporate the principle of accounting for environmental effects of energy, including greenhouse gas emissions, into the regulation of natural gas and electricity conservation.

Rural residents and Ontarians living in remote areas of the province are dependent chiefly on oil or propane for home heating, and the report identifies opportunities to do more to help these energy consumers conserve fuel.  

The ECO's report also highlights a sample of innovative and successful conservation projects in Ontario in 2009, such as: a project by the Social Housing Services Corporation to inform tenants about energy conservation; projects by Toronto Hydro and PowerStream (a utility serving the cities of Barrie, Markham, Vaughan and other communities) to reduce energy use at companies operating data centres; and the Ontario government's plan for a flagship energy efficient building for its employees in Toronto.
Recommendations

Develop a comprehensive energy conservation strategy.  (Page 43 of the report.)

1.      The ECO recommends that the Secretary of Cabinet direct the development of a comprehensive energy conservation strategy encompassing all major energy sources used in Ontario. The strategy should be developed with public input.

Stabilize electricity policy, and provide clarity and certainty to that policy.  (Page 43 of the report.)

2.      The ECO recommends that the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure move quickly to clarify the role of the Integrated Power System Plan and to finalize the key conservation regulations and directives under the Green Energy and Green Economy Act, 2009.

3.      The ECO recommends that the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure commit to a period of policy stability to allow for implementation and evaluation of the Green Energy and Green Economy Act, 2009.

Examine the role of benchmarking and energy targets.  (Page 44 of the report.)

4.      The ECO recommends that the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure establish targets to reduce provincial electricity consumption. These consumption targets will supplement the province's existing targets to reduce peak electricity demand and fulfill the government's commitment to build a culture of conservation.

5.      The ECO recommends that the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure establish reportable benchmarking by sector. This would assist the government in deciding whether to establish targets to reduce the use of natural gas, oil, propane and transportation fuels, and would make the targets meaningful.

Ensure accountability, transparency and public input on energy directives.  (Page 44 of the report.)

6.      The ECO recommends that the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure provide an opportunity for public input in the development of policy directives to electricity sector institutions, as required by the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993.

7.      The ECO recommends that the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure develop a reporting mechanism to track progress on directives which ensures accountability and transparency.