New “Canadian Energy Efficiency Outlook” - A National Effort for Tackling Climate Change

18 Dec 2018

By Pierre Langlois, President, Econoler, and
 Geneviève Gauthier, National Director of Consulting Services, Econoler

Canada is a vast country with only 37 million inhabitants (roughly around one twentieth of Europe). One would easily think that the energy context of Canada would be homogeneous from one ocean to another. However, Canada comprises thirteen different jurisdictions, ten provinces and three territories, all of which differ greatly in legal and regulatory frameworks as well as the availability of energy resources, energy costs and electricity generation carbon footprints. How has this great diversity shaped their energy efficiency sector?

The newly released Canadian Energy Efficiency Outlook: A National Effort for Tackling Climate Change gives us the answer and presents how Canada has variably innovated and developed mechanisms to achieve the goal of advancing the country to be more energy efficient. This article gives a brief overview of the core findings presented in the book.

How Canada’s diversified energy and legislative context influences energy efficiency initiatives

Canada is one of the highest energy consuming nations per capita in the world. Amongst the factors most impacting Canada’s energy consumption are its northern climate and low population density (3.9 inhabitants/km2). While the former has an obvious significant impact on heating needs in buildings, the latter has greatly influenced how transportation infrastructure has been developed. Less obviously, the low population density also affects the technological choices made to heat, cool and light buildings. There are, for instance, too few district energy systems throughout Canada. With a few exceptions identified, Canadian communities have not yet learned how to fully take advantage of the energy efficiency potential of district energy systems in relatively sparsely populated communities.

In terms of energy sources, here again there is variety across Canada. Canada is the world’s sixth largest energy exporter and one of the few net energy exporters in the world. More specifically, in 2015, Canada was the fifth largest petroleum producer and the second largest producer of hydroelectric power . Whereas petroleum production is mainly concentrated in one province (Alberta), most hydroelectricity production is concentrated in three provinces approximately 1,000 kilometers apart (British Columbia, Manitoba and Quebec). This fundamental difference in available energy sources in each province and territory is evidently reflected in the electricity generation carbon footprint that varies by a factor of 40 from the lowest to highest emitting provinces (See Figure x). Given that in recent years many demand-side management (DSM) initiatives have been driven by the climate change agenda, the electricity carbon footprint has led to highly inconsistent energy efficiency initiatives from a Pan-Canadian perspective.

Part of the reason why so much energy policy diversity exists in Canada is its federal structure, which divides government responsibilities between the federal and the thirteen provincial and territorial governments, rendering energy efficiency as mostly a provincial jurisdiction. For instance, the Canada Energy Efficiency Act and related Energy Efficiency Regulations set standards for products imported into Canada or shipped from one province to another but fails to regulate products produced and sold within the same jurisdiction.

Figure 1: Electricity Carbon Footprint in Canada

A result of the great diversity - Energy efficiency training and capacity building in Canada

The most defining aspect of the Canadian EE training ecosystem is the various types of involvement of diverse organisations ranging from utilities to private companies.

In the public sector, training and capacity building initiatives are almost absent in one of the most populated provinces in Canada, Quebec. On the other hand in Ontario, the province’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) operates what is potentially the most successful energy management training incentive program in Canada through the ‘Save on Energy’ brand. From 2011 to 2015, more than 6,000 individuals underwent IESO-incented training. IESO expanded its range of programs eligible for funding in 2017 and now maintains a target of training 10,000 individuals from 2017 to the end of the Conservation First Framework in 2020. This certainly represents a bold and significant commitment to increasing the capacity of EE stakeholders to generate, accelerate and replicate EE projects throughout the province. IESO currently provides incentives for a vast array of training covering the following subjects: (1) foundational development; (2) specialized development; and (3) professional development.

In the private sector, the main actor in the market, the Canadian Institute for Energy Training (CIET) has been offering leading EE training and certification programs since 1996. Having trained close to 10,000 individuals as of 2017, CIET has established itself as a reference in Canadian EE training.

For an economy the size of Canada, the energy and legislative contexts represent unique challenges to developing and launching coherent initiatives from one coast to another. However, it is fascinating to see those diversified Energy Efficiency Initiatives that facilitate the development of a Pan-Canadian low-carbon economy by improving domestic energy productivity, and offer a lot to inspire energy efficiency stakeholders across the world.

For more detailed and updated information on the energy efficiency sector in Canada, please consult the book: Canadian Energy Efficiency Outlook: A National Effort for Tackling Climate Change.

Pierre Langlois is the president of Econoler. He is an internationally recognized energy efficiency expert who has accumulated 30 years of experience in the clean energy sector, specifically in the design, financing, implementation and monitoring of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects and programs, both in Canada and abroad. He is an international expert in all energy efficiency subsectors, with impressive accomplishments in policy development, demand-side management, financing mechanisms, EPC and the design of innovative initiatives. He has acted as a member of the board of directors of several ESCOs throughout the world and a number of international organisation such as the Efficiency Valuation Organization (EVO), where he has served on the board since 2005 and is currently serving as acting chairman of the board.

Geneviève Gauthier
is the National Director of Consulting Services at Econoler. She is an energy efficiency and renewable energy expert with significant experience advising public and private organisations in the commercial, institutional and industrial sectors across Canada. She has more than 17 years of experience in energy efficiency, renewable energy and natural gas projects across Canada. She is an active member of several sectoral not-for-profit organisations involved in the energy efficiency market in Canada.