2009 Energy Conservation Progress Report (Volume Two)

Rethinking Energy Conservation in Ontario


Video: Commissioner comments on Home Energy Savings Program

Toronto, November 30, 2010 – Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner says the government needs to make improvements to its energy conservation programs, if it hopes to meet its tough new electricity reduction targets.

With the release of a report called Rethinking Energy Conservation in Ontario – Results [.pdf], Gord Miller warns that “strong action will be needed if the government is to meet new electricity conservation targets proposed in the government’s Long-Term Energy Plan.” The Environmental Commissioner says “conservation is the most cost-effective way to avoid the need for expensive new generation and transmission facilities, including new natural gas peaking plants.”

The Long-Term Energy Plan, released last week, proposes to reduce demand by 7,100 megawatts and 28 terawatt-hours by 2030, which the government believes to be one of the most aggressive targets in North America.

Miller’s report reviews progress on several energy conservation programs, including the Ontario Power Authority’s demand response programs which pay large industrial electricity consumers to reduce their consumption when electricity demand is high. They account for most of the progress to meet Ontario’s electricity conservation target.

Improvements in the programs’ design have increased their effectiveness. Miller is pleased that the OPA is addressing shortcomings in its demand response programs, and believes that “the OPA has shown demand response programs can provide a cost-effective, reliable alternative to having to build new gas-fired peaker plants.”

The Environmental Commissioner says the province’s current energy conservation programs could be improved. The Ontario Power Authority should design its demand response programs to more closely coincide with times of peak consumption. In 2008 and 2009, one of the programs, called DR3, was activated 21 times, but only 5 of those activations coincided with days having the highest peak demand.

The Environmental Commissioner pointed out other gaps in Ontario’s conservation programs that need to be fixed.

  • The popular and effective Home Energy Savings Program is ending, with no replacement program in sight. Also, there has been no action, as promised in legislation, to assist home purchasers to rate a home’s energy efficiency by requiring energy audits when a home is sold.
  • Union Gas and Enbridge have allowed their residential conservation programs to stagnate. Regulatory improvements and co-ordination between government, gas and electricity distributors could address this.
  • There has been little progress in the provincial goal of establishing a low carbon fuel standard, which would see a 10% reduction in carbon emissions from transportation fuels by 2020.

The Environmental Commissioner says “there are some good things happening, but there are others that need to be improved. We need to ensure conservation is the first option when we make decisions about energy in Ontario.”

Don’t Leave Homeowners Out In the Cold

Toronto, November 30th, 2010 – The province’s Environmental Commissioner says Ontario should continue to have a home-energy retrofit program.

In his report Rethinking Energy Conservation in Ontario – Results [.pdf], Gord Miller warns the Ontario Home Energy Savings Program (HESP) will stop taking new applications at the end of March, 2011. The federal ecoENERGY – Retrofit Homes program, which provides matching funds, has already stopped accepting new applicants.

Miller says, “the Home Energy Savings Program has helped to start to build an ethic and culture of conservation among the province’s homeowners.”

With no real marketing:

  • 158,000 homeowners have retrofitted their homes, and cut their energy bills and greenhouse gas emissions by making improvements like upgrading their heating and cooling systems, adding insulation and high-efficiency doors and windows.
  • 112,000 people have received grants under the HESP to replace an old furnace or boiler with a more efficient model.

“The program is particularly effective for homes built before the building code changes of the 1970s,” says the Environmental Commissioner, “but the current uncertainty over the program’s existence may hurt companies that supply conservation services in the province.”

While the Environmental Commissioner believes Ontario needs a home energy retrofit program, he says changes should be made to improve its scope and efficiency.

  • Homeowners need to be encouraged to undertake a suite of multiple improvements to their home’s energy efficiency. Currently, one-quarter of the program participants carry out only one of the upgrades recommended to them and miss opportunities for additional energy savings. Only about a quarter of participants do a deep retrofit involving four or more of the recommended improvements.
  • There needs to be better evaluation of the HESP, and other ministry conservation programs, to verify the energy savings and improve the design of each program. Right now the Ontario Energy ministry is relying on estimates produced by the federal government.

The Environmental Commissioner says there are alternatives to the outright cancellation of the popular HESP, which has so far cost the provincial government $205 million over the last three years. Miller says, “the program could be redesigned to offer less money, older, draftier homes could be targeted, or it could be taken over by Ontario’s gas utilities, which have been focusing their efforts on the commercial and industrial sectors.”

The Commissioner questions the province’s support for the program. “The government’s Long-Term Energy Plan, released last week, makes no mention of continuing financial assistance for retrofits, and only says it will ‘propose to support homeowners to have energy audits.’ Yet the government also anticipates that 30% of the new conservation target contained in the Plan will come from the residential sector, and gives no details on how its targets will be met without retrofit programs.

For more information, contact:

Communications and Outreach Coordinator
Environmental Commissioner of Ontario

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