Energy is critical to keeping Ontario running – energy heats and powers our homes, businesses, institutions and farms while also fueling our transportation systems and industrial processes. But producing and consuming energy has many impacts on Ontario’s environment.
Energy conservation seeks to reduce energy consumption, either by simply using less or improving the efficiency of energy-using technologies or by changing behaviour so that the timing of use of energy is shifted and consumption is reduced either temporarily or in some cases permanently; this means there is less stress on energy production and delivery systems and less need to add facilities to serve a small number of high demand periods. Because conservation can displace electricity generated from hydro, natural gas, nuclear and other sources, and can displace energy sources like oil and gas used as thermal energy, it can be considered an energy resource just like these other fuels. From this perspective, Ontario’s 2032 electricity conservation target of 30 terawatt hours, which will account for 16% of production and is more than all the power currently used by the City of Toronto, is substantial.
Energy planning, supply and conservation in Ontario are primarily the responsibility of the Ministry of Energy (ENG) with support from the Ontario Energy Board, the Independent Electricity System Operator and Ontario’s electric and natural gas utilities . However, other provincial ministries have roles to play in energy-related issues. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) administers the Ontario Building Code, which specifies energy efficiency requirements and greenhouse gas objectives, and the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) is responsible for addressing the environmental impacts of energy projects. Other ministries, like the Ministry of Education (and school boards), the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, are responsible for improving energy conservation of the schools, transport, and health care facilities.
Since 2009, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO) has been tasked with reporting on progress of activities in Ontario to reduce energy use or improve energy efficiency.
Specifically, the ECO is responsible for producing an annual report (the “Energy Report”) that:
- Documents the results of conservation initiatives related to reduction of the use of electricity, natural gas, propane, oil and transportation fuels;
- Reviews the progress in meeting any government-established targets for these fuels; and
- Identifies any Acts, regulations, by-laws or policies that result in barriers to the development or implementation of energy conservation initiatives related to electricity, natural gas, propane, oil and transportation fuels.
Energy Conservation Progress in Ontario
- As recommended by the ECO in our 2014 Energy Report, the Ontario Energy Board now allows utilities to increase their conservation budget if targeted conservation spending would avoid greater future infrastructure costs.
- The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing recently updated the 2012 Ontario Building Code’s technical standards to restrict the use of trade-offs that reduce the level of energy performance of the building envelope, as recommended by the ECO in our 2012 Energy Report, Vol. 2.
- Following a recommendation we made in our 2012 Energy Report, Vol. 2., the Ministry of Energy developed a regular update cycle for product standards, which identifies Ontario’s best opportunities to improve energy efficiency.
- The Ministry of Energy now makes all energy reports it receives from the broader public sector permanently available on its website in a consistent format, as recommended by the ECO in Volume 1 of our 2012 Energy Report.
In addition to the ECO’s annual reporting on Ontario’s progress towards meeting its energy conservation goals, the ECO has discussed many energy-related issues in our Energy Reports and Environmental Protection Reports, including: electricity and energy sector regulation; conservation programs; conservation planning policy; conservation opportunities and barriers; energy pricing and customer engagement; Building Code and product standards; and renewable and alternative energy. Below is a selection of articles related to energy conservation, use and issues from the ECO’s reports. You can also use the search bar at the top of this page to search our website and reports for a particular word or phrase.
• MicroFIT (2009 Energy Report, Vol. 2)