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Ontario's Push Towards Net-Zero: The Energy Efficiency Roadmap


Canada's vision of a net-zero emissions future demands an earnest push for energy efficiency. Provincial and territorial jurisdictions are uniquely positioned, controlling aspects like energy utilities, building codes, and certification of skilled trades. While individual provinces such as British Columbia, Nova Scotia, and Quebec are making strides, a cohesive nationwide approach is lacking. It's high time for national direction.


The Context of Canadian Energy Efficiency

Provinces are the true champions of energy efficiency in Canada. For instance, the annual Canadian Energy Efficiency Scorecard, which benchmarks the performance of provinces and territories based on their energy efficiency policy and programs, show gradual improvements. But the progress is far from robust or comprehensive enough to achieve our climate change objectives.


Provincial Energy Innovators

Three provinces stand out in the energy efficiency arena:

British Columbia has been a forerunner, driving markets with clear regulations towards better energy efficiency and lower emissions. The province is on course to have every new building be zero emissions by 2030.


Nova Scotia has upped its game, emphasizing on reducing energy bills for low-income families and partnering with the Mi’kmaw First Nation. It promises to allocate 20% of its electricity program's budget to under-resourced communities in the coming years.


Quebec flaunts the highest per-capita transit funding and ridership. Its utilities aim to harness energy-efficient electric heat pumps for most hours of the year, relying on natural gas only during peak cold spells.


However, a major national shortcoming is the absence of a clear blueprint for reaching net-zero emissions. While individual provinces are advancing, a nationally streamlined policy with specific sectoral targets is imperative.


The Role of Building Codes

New constructions play a significant role in energy consumption, and they must be net-zero ready. Building codes, which encapsulate everything from construction standards to plumbing, are crucial. The International Energy Agency advises governments to adopt zero-carbon-ready building codes by 2030 at the latest. As of now, only a few provinces like British Columbia, Yukon, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick have committed to these targets.

Harnessing Federal Strategies

The forthcoming federal Green Building Strategy could be the game-changer. It offers an opportunity to set clear energy efficiency parameters in line with net-zero emissions.


This strategy can:

· Mandate specific energy and emission intensity performance in varying building types.

· Prescribe rapid enhancements to energy codes for new structures, ensuring they're net-zero energy-ready.

· Guide public utility regulators towards net-zero goals, suggesting higher annual savings.

· Support energy retrofits for households that currently can't afford them.

· Integrate green workforce strategies into federal-provincial agreements.

· Assist provincial and territorial building renovation plans.


There's no denying the profound impact federal funding and technical assistance can have. However, for these efforts to yield tangible results, they must be linked to meaningful structural policy changes.


A Call to Action

The shift towards a net-zero emissions economy isn't just about reducing a tonne of emissions here and there. It's about industrial transformation. While provinces like British Columbia, Nova Scotia, and Quebec are setting the pace, the entire nation needs to get on board. With the right national direction and an integrated approach, Canada can realize its ambitious goal of net-zero emissions. As we gear towards this vision, every building, every policy, and every strategy counts.


Sources:

International Energy Agency, Net-Zero by 2050

Canadian Energy Efficiency Scorecard, 2022

Federal Green Building Strategy

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