EMMA NORTON: How Nova Scotia could become even more energy-efficient

With a climate catastrophe looming, it’s helpful to remember that there are millions of people in the world working on solutions already. In Canada, 436,000 of those people work in the energy-efficiency industry. They include carpenters, insulators, engineers, tradespeople, administrators, architects and graphic designers.  Yet oil and gas and telecommunications receive considerably greater policy attention.  

The thousands employed in energy efficiency are doing the critical work right now that will move our economy toward a low-carbon future.  This sector will account for more than 40 per cent of Canada’s energy needs by 2050. More investment in energy efficiency can also help us avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis.   

Right now, Canada needs to double its climate goals in order to contribute its fair share of the effort required to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 Celsius. Investing in more efficient technologies and practices can help Canada achieve the emissions target it has already set. Conservation reduces the need to build more electricity generation. A recent report found that doubling energy-efficiency efforts in Nova Scotia would allow for the early retirement of a coal plant and avoid the need for additional generation capacity. 

This week, Efficiency Canada releases its provincial energy efficiency scorecard, which ranks provincial policies and performance. Nova Scotia comes in fourth. We received top score for energy-efficiency programs, largely due to the hard work of Efficiency Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia recognizes energy efficiency as a resource, which has enabled strong programs provincewide.  

Nova Scotia also came out on top in the “training and professionalization” category.  Over 1,400 people are working in the energy-efficiency industry here. Diversifying to a low-carbon economy will include investment in technologies, but also people. Nova Scotia’s training programs are setting an example of how the transition will affect everyday Canadians. 

The scorecard specifically encourages Nova Scotia to set higher efficiency targets, a policy the Ecology Action Centre has been pushing for. We recently released a study showing that tripling our energy-efficiency targets could create 37,462 job years in Nova Scotia by 2030.  

The scorecard also recognized Nova Scotia for its programs that provide energy-efficiency upgrades for people who live on a low income. Nova Scotia spends the third-highest amount per capita on efficiency measures per household living in energy poverty — a condition which two out of five households experience here.  

The takeaway is that Nova Scotia is already doing great, but doing more will only serve to benefit both people and the environment.  Moving forward, Nova Scotia should prioritize a strong building code that will ensure every new structure is high-performing and super energy-efficient. Further, while improvements are necessary when it comes to new construction, we need policies and programs to support energy reduction in existing buildings. A key piece here is rating and labelling energy use. With Nova Scotia’s already strong workforce and training programs, these two next steps are very much within our reach. 

Emma Norton is the energy conservation co-ordinator for the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax.

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