Fix Conservation Programs to Secure Energy Savings

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
, Environmental Commissioner
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.”

Noted Miller, “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 href=”/articles/2010/november/23/ontario-releases-long-term-energy-plan.aspx”
target=”_blank”>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

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

However, notes the Commissioner, 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.

For example, in 2008 and 2009, one of the utility’s programs,
called DR3, was activated 21 times, but only 5 of those activations
coincided with days having the highest peak demand.

The report notes 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

Miller warns that ending the Ontario Home Energy Savings Program
(HESP) might prove unwise. He notes, “the Home Energy Savings
Program has

helped to start to build an ethic and culture of conservation among
the province’s homeowners.”

The report notes that with no real marketing, 158,000 homeowners
have retrofitted their homes, and cut their energy bills and
greenhouse gas emissions by upgrading their heating and cooling
systems, adding insulation and high-efficiency doors and windows.
More than 112,000 people have received grants under the HESP
to replace an old furnace or boiler with a more efficient

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

While stressing the need for a home energy retrofit program,

says changes should be made to improve its scope and efficiency. In
particular,  homeowners need to be encouraged to undertake a
suite of multiple improvements to their home’s energy

Currently, one-quarter of the program participants carry out
only one of the upgrades recommended to them and miss opportunities
for additional energy savings, the report states.

There are alternatives to the outright cancellation of the
popular HESP program, notes Miller, which has so far cost the
provincial government $205 million over the last three years. “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.”

In general, Miller says there are some good things
happening with respect to energy policy in Ontario, but there are
things that need to be improved. “We need to ensure conservation is
the first option when we make decisions about energy in Ontario,”
he concludes.

The recommendations cited above and the entire report
Rethinking Energy Conservation in Ontario - Results can be
found at title=””> .

To view the Environmental Commissioner’s comments on Demand
Response in Ontario, visit href=”” target=”_blank”

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