Energy efficiency messaging reset in Ontario

Strategic defence of CDM should emphasize paybacks and play nice. 

Energy efficiency advocates are working to enlist broader support and leverage existing influential backers at a time when government commitment is becoming more uneven across North American jurisdictions. Efficiency Canada — formerly the Canadian Energy Efficiency Alliance — launched its new brand this spring with a heavy emphasis on the economic development opportunities arising from energy retrofits and the pursuit of Canada’s greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets.

Notably, economic modelling Efficiency Canada co-sponsored projects that energy efficiency measures identified in the national framework for addressing climate change could equate to a $356 billion boost to Canada’s GDP between 2017 and 2030. That’s pegged at $7 of GDP for every $1 invested in energy efficiency.

However, the largest provincial player in that pursuit has since reversed course, terminating its cap-and-trade system and, with it, the funding mechanism for various incentives to promote energy efficiency in commercial and residential buildings offered through the now-cancelled Green Ontario Fund. Efficiency Canada’s mission statement looks particularly ambitious in light of recent developments.

“Our goal is to make energy efficiency — through an economic lens — top of mind for policy makers,” affirms the not-for-profit association’s website. “To do that, we aim to make the complex, simple; the story, compelling; the stakeholders, heroes; the mundane, exciting.”

Adjusting to a new tone

Last week’s joint statement from the Premiers of Ontario and Saskatchewan takes a different stance.

“Carbon taxes make life unaffordable for families and put thousands of jobs at risk. This type of taxation does nothing for the environment and hits people in the wallet in order to fund big government initiatives,” Doug Ford and Scott Moe assert. “A climate change strategy is critical, but a carbon tax would increase the price of virtually every product and service people need on a daily basis.”

Disentangling energy efficiency from GHG reduction and renewable energy — at least on the messaging level — may now be strategic for its preservation. Thus far, the new Ontario government has made no announcement related to its campaign pledge to transfer the funding mechanism for conservation and demand management (CDM) programs from hydro rates to the general tax base, but energy managers and prospective beneficiaries of CDM incentives are wary.

The government has moved quickly on other components of its promised scheme to cut electricity costs for ratepayers by 12 per cent. Within days of the throne speech reaffirmation to Ontarians to “lower your hydro bills”, the executive structure of Hydro One, which oversees the transmission of electricity, had been overhauled, and 758 renewable energy contracts — of which 748 were small scale generation, no greater than 500 kilowatts, under the feed-in tariff (FIT) program — were cancelled.

“For 15 years, Ontario families and businesses have been forced to pay inflated hydro prices so the government could spend on unnecessary and expensive energy schemes,” Ontario Energy Minister Greg Rickford said, July 13, as he scrapped the contracts for the projects. “Those days are over.”

Canadian Property Management article by Barbara Carss. Click button to continue reading.

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