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Ontario Government Must Act Now to Ensure Energy Conservation in the Future

Tuesday, January 8th 2013 10:09:58am

January 8, 2013 - Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner, Gord Miller, says uncertainty about the future of electricity conservation programs is discouraging further energy savings in Ontario.

Miller today released Volume Two of his 2011 Annual Energy Conservation Progress Report. This report annually reviews reductions in energy usage, increases in energy efficiency, and the progress and barriers to energy conservation. Volume One of the report was released in June 2012.

The report shows that Ontario’s electricity conservation programs are cost effective and cheaper than generating power to supply demand. The cost of each kilowatt-hour saved through conservation programs in 2011 was about 3 cents.

Yet the Environmental Commissioner found the government has been slower than expected in building a culture of conservation in Ontario, a goal announced by the government in 2004. “It’s been almost a decade, and we still have not gone beyond the foundation work to actually build the rest of the structure.”

A critical pressure point was relieved recently when the government announced it was extending the conservation programs for the province’s local distribution companies (LDCs) for a year beyond their December 31, 2014 termination date.

“This was an important development, but it is not a permanent solution,” said Miller. “The extension of the programs only highlights the need for a long-term commitment to funding conservation within electricity planning. The government needs to make conservation the new normal, so that everyone can build it into their business plans. Local distribution companies (LDCs) and suppliers have expressed reluctance to invest in needed programs without this assurance. Also, consumers and businesses may hesitate to sign up for programs with uncertain futures.”

In his review, the Environmental Commissioner also evaluated the progress made towards meeting the 2014 electricity conservation targets that had previously been established for the province’s LDCs. The report covers results from 2011, which was the first year of the new conservation framework that assigned LDCs a larger role in delivering conservation programs.

The report found that while the distribution companies were on track to meet their target of reducing total electricity usage by 6,000 gigawatt-hours (GWh) between 2011 and 2014, they would fall one-third short of needed reductions in the peak electricity demand. This could lead to increased use of natural gas-fired plants to meet this peak demand.

The Progress Report also discovered significant differences in the conservation accomplishments of LDCs. One of the findings was that LDC size was not a strong predictor of achievement.

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Download the Environmental Commissioner’s 2011 Annual Energy Conservation Progress Report (Volume Two) at http://www.eco.on.ca.

For more information, contact:

Hayley Easto, Communications and Outreach Coordinator
Environmental Commissioner of Ontario
416-325-3371 / 416-819-1673 / 1-800-701-6454
hayley.easto@eco.on.ca

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The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario is appointed by the Legislative Assembly to be the province's independent environmental watchdog, reporting publicly on the government's environmental decision making.

To watch a video of the Commissioner speaking about the report, see www.eco.on.ca.