Q&A with Corey DiamondWebinar on September 9, 2022
We’re kicking off the fall session of DiscoverEE with an “ask me anything”. Corey Diamond, Executive Director of Efficiency Canada will be on hand to answer your questions. We hope to see you there!
- Corey Diamond, Executive Director, Efficiency Canada
- Allison Mostowich, Director of Engagement, Efficiency Canada
Allison: Morning, everybody. My name is Allison Mostowich. I am the Director of Engagement at Efficiency Canada, and I am joining you from Calgary, Alberta. That is home of the Blackfoot Confederacy, The Tsuutina, Stony Nakota nations, Metis Nation Region 3 and all the people who make their homes in the Treaty 7 region of Southern Alberta.
And while we are a remote workplace Efficiency Canada is based at Carleton university, which is located in the traditional unceded territories of the Algonquin nation. So we had a bit of a last minute change this morning and, and last night, so we’re gonna do a bit of a format today. Today is going to be an ask me anything with Corey Diamond
So with that, Corey, why don’t you let us know what’s going on at Efficiency Canada, right?
Corey: Thanks Allison. Hi everyone. I’m happy to pinch hit on this week’s discoverEE and just open it up.
There’s so much going on as usual in the world of energy efficiency policy. So hopefully we can be of use to you, and answer any questions, burning questions you may have, but maybe I thought. Thought it would be helpful just to start off with yeah. Just what, we’re up to some of the kind of key policy focus areas that, we’re working on, some of the projects coming up.
Just so you get a sense of kind of what our little group has been, focused on over the last few weeks and into the fall. Many of that we are, very involved in building codes and building code adoption, across the country, we were very, happy to see the federal government, adopt a new tech on, building codes for new buildings.
And, we now have a pathway in front of us to see every single new building in Canada. Essentially move towards net zero energy ready. A big part of that is gonna be how, provinces and municipalities, adopt the latest version of the building code, what tier they do that. And, and then how the federal government can support them through the building code adoption fund, which was announced in budget 2022.
So we’re working with a number of, large municipalities across the country to get, net zero building codes adopted, for new construction. So we feel that, the role municipalities is exceptionally important. Many municipalities across the country are actually moving faster than their provincial counterparts and there’s an opportunity to support them.
So they have what they need everything down to the level of building officials to capacity building, to training so that they can, be, the first to adopt, higher tiers of the code. In addition to that, we have. Put together. And if you haven’t seen it, check our website, the action of building codes, council.
So it’s a group of hardcore building code advocates from across the country that, advocate regionally. To support, strong building code adoption. So we’ve got the work that’s happening at the municipal level and then, regionally at the provincial level as well.
And then we will be releasing, this Fall, the building code guide for municipal officials. So a very simple, step-by-step way for municipal officials to understand what’s happening, with the new code and what they can do to drive it. And we’ll support that with the discoverEE session as well.
On existing buildings. We are close to bringing a new team member on shortly who’s gonna focus on codes an the role that building performance standards play, for existing buildings. A new policy that is gaining a lot of steam, in many states and cities in the US around building performance standards, essentially setting a standard of how much energy an existing building can use, and then from that, ratcheting that down over time and then supporting through various different, incentives and programs and things. So we’re gonna be ratcheting that up. It’s great to see places like the city of Vancouver who’s adopted a building performance standard, and we’d like to support other municipalities and provinces across the country on that as well. So if you’ve got any thoughts, ideas, expertise on that, then reach out to us. As many of you know, if you’ve been following our work, we have been doing a lot on, energy efficiency for low income households. In the Spring, we released our research report on policy solutions called Efficiency For All, which basically looked at what’s happening across the country at the provincial level, and then the gaps that the federal government can fill. Over the summer, we’ve been focusing on supporting constituents to meet with their MPs, to tell their stories about this because we feel that the local pressure on elected officials is an important way to get this on the radar.
And then we’ve got a broad awareness campaign launching this Fall as MPs return into Ottawa, as well as our regular advocacy work. And we feel this is one of the most important policies, especially as the green building strategy gets released, ensuring that no one is left behind as part of that, but also ensuring that affordability, cost of living, can easily tank any strong climate action.
And, certainly, people on the opposition who are thinking about encouraging the federal government not to move fast on climate issues are using this as a reason. Certainly we feel there’s a great opportunity now, not only from a justice standpoint to help those who most need it, but also to continue to drive aggressive climate change policy at the federal level.
Related to that, we are also working on a report that brings together some of the social issues and the climate issues, specifically around tenant rights and energy efficiency. So we’re working on a report that outlines a framework of policies that considers the mix of how to ensure that. When you’re implementing strong energy efficiency policies or climate policies that they also empower tenant rights and don’t, lead to things like evictions where landlords can make material changes to their buildings and then raise rents and things like that.
So there’s some experience around the world on how to protect tenants, during this, so that you’re enhancing affordability, security and comfort but making sure that Energy efficiency isn’t being used as an excuse to turn over tenants. My colleague James had been working on an industrial energy efficiency project that,was supported through a grant from Scotiabank, really looking at the policy gaps and the solutions in Canada to boost more strategic energy management and energy management systems, which we feel is a burgeoning area of energy efficiency, especially in Canada. There’s a lot of great practitioners and people working on this. But we do need a much stronger kind of policy system around it.
And that’s what that report will say when we release that in a couple months. And we’ll also promote that on discoverEE as well. So look for that. Many of us work through our provincial energy efficiency scorecard that we release every year. So that will be released again this November, where we benchmark and look at all the programs and policies across the country from provinces and territories, and then we also rank them and celebrate those that are doing great and highlight those that need to keep going and do better. And we find the scorecard continues to work throughout the year as different policy makers on all sides from all different parties use it as a way to encourage and engage elected officials to do even more.
So we’ll be doing that again this year. So look out for that. And then lastly, my colleagues Kelsey and Tseli have been doing a lot of work on workforce development. Many of you know about our Discovery hub, which is our career hub, where people can go to find out what it’s like to enter the energy efficiency workforce, how to get a job, what kinds of training and work you need to do to enter the pathway of different career options.
And we just launched a career job board, so people can go on it and and seek out jobs and figure out how to do that. We are developing what we’re calling a career guides approach where people can connect with champions in the sector who, through the Our Human Energy program, have done exceptional work in their careers and can provide advice and support on how to build a career in this sector.
So pretty exciting stuff there. And, that’s only gonna continue into 2023, as we see, we can be extremely successful at all the policies that I just mentioned, but without a workforce to do it, and inspiring people to enter the workforce, then they’re just policies on paper without actual implementation.
Those are all the things that our little shop is working on. Some things related to the future into 2023, that we’ve been thinking about, projects related to new business models and looking at specifically how we can create complete new business models to take on more efficiency upgrades, specifically around retrofits and combining HVAC insulation, windows insulation into kind of a whole home business model.
We’re gonna be doing some work with some partners on advocating to the federal government on how they can regulate the most efficient heating possible across the country, which has been, mentioned in the emissions reduction plan and in mandate letters to minister Wilkinson and then, also to broaden out our kind of workforce development, just to look at sector capabilities.
What is Canada good at in the energy efficiency sector? And what kinds of supports do we need from the federal government to help create more activity? So what kinds of policies or tax treatment or other kinds of things that could enable the sector to hire more people do more work, change into new business models and things like that.
So that the federal government’s not only driving through policy, but also through building out a sector and understanding better the capabilities. So lots going on as per usual. And as per usual, this sector, because there are there isn’t one silver bullet of policy, but, lots of little things that add up to big things.
And the last thing I’ll say is, just having been in this role for four or five years and been in this sector for most of my career, there is significant momentum happening right now, and there is an opportunity over the next, I would say 18 to 24 months where, some real legacy type stuff can happen real transformative work related to basically ensuring every new building is net zero energy ready, and that all existing buildings are being, encouraged to use as little energy as possible through policy and implementing a national low income strategy to do that. So those three things could really be long term, baked in real legacy type transformative stuff.
Allison: Thanks so much, Corey. That’s awesome to hear about what efficiency Canada’s got going on.
So let’s get to a few of the questions that are already in there. Let’s start with an easy one. So the tenant writes report that you had mentioned. Do we have some timing on when that’s gonna be released?
Corey: Yeah. We are planning for that to be released, in the new year. So January is certainly where it’s set right now.
There’s some work we need to do, obviously on understanding a little bit of a landscape of the policies like the policy ecosystem and then who is responsible and who can be responsible. Some are easy or easier for example, if the federal government is providing a grant or an incentive on, upgrades and things like that, They can actually say in that, that if we have stipulations written right into it, that money would be caught back or not released.
If certain actions were taken like a re eviction or something like that. And then there are others that I think are a little more complicated by, trying to line up. Federal provincial and municipal policies to better understand where they may be able to be used together. So it’s a bit of a complex system that we’re working on to kind of review, but, January would be our date for that.
Awesome. And, if you’re not signed up for our newsletter for updates, you can certainly sign up for those on our website and you’ll get the latest news. And many reports or blogs, things like that. So Nick asked a really good question. This is actually getting upvoted. Which key issues do you believe are on the horizon that the federal provincial or municipal policy makers haven’t really focused their attention on yet?
Corey: So one that comes to mind. I mentioned it, in passing in my update, is building performance standards. And it’s something that we’re very interested in. So essentially what this is setting, through first, obviously benchmarking and disclosure and labeling programs, a building, is, understands how much energy it uses.
And then over time there are levels that they need to reach by Certain time milestones. This is a burgeoning way to encourage, especially commercial building owners to do more and to do them faster. The most famous example of this happening is in New York city where buildings had a very short, limited amount of time to do the retrofits required to meet the lower standard.
But what we’re seeing in the US, there is a coalition of 60 plus cities and states, that have come together led by the Institute for Market Transformation. And it’s called the building performance standard coalition. Pretty good name for something working on that. And they’ve got together and tried to make it easier for cities that are interested in this by essentially a clearinghouse of the policy.
Exactly how to write it into a municipal bylaw, how to write it into a state law, how to, create the, parameters. When to ratchet down, so that’s moving really. Vancouver is the first in Canada to do this. Montreal, soon. Toronto has talked about it, so there’s starting to be some movement here, but I think that’s an area where, we feel there’s a lot of momentum.
We were a little dismayed to see that it was not in the draft green building strategy that was released last month. So in our comment to NRCAN, we’ll be putting that in, saying that this is certainly a policy that we need to see happen and support from the federal government to enable provinces and cities to do it, or ideally a national strategy.
Allison: Awesome. Thank you. Do you wanna expand a little bit on what we are submitting for the green building strategy, where we see some of the policy gaps?
Corey: Sure. And so for those that aren’t hardcore nerds like us and follow all the consultation periods essentially what’s going on now is, the federal government, in budget 2022, provided $150 million available to NRCAN to basically implement a number of policies, including launching a national consultation process on what is called the green building strategy.
So if we are getting ourselves on a path between now and 2050, where every new and existing building, is net zero energy, and is fully decarbonized, what would we need to do as a country? And so it lays out a number of themes, that will get us there and then a number of programs and policy areas that will help.
There’s some really good things in it that we feel are gonna get us to where we need to be specifically areas and emphasis around market transformation. Sticking with the roadmap that the federal government had created a number of years ago on heating, a lot of this is gonna be about the federal government’s role in transforming markets, which would then attract activity and investment from other actors.
The other theme that we really like is that there is still a role for what they call mandating change, which is essentially regulation. And, ideally if done, you set the market towards a certain goal, and then at the end, you are able to regulate. So there’s something, to be said about supporting markets to transform, and then coming in at the end with tough regulations. So we feel like there’s some good stuff in there related to it, but there are some gaps. And certainly the first gap that we noticed, as I mentioned, is that there isn’t as much an emphasis on low income energy efficiency and on affordability.
In Canada, we’ve got 4.9 million Canadians who are at risk of energy poverty, people who are low income Canadians and can’t access the programs that other people can. They can’t participate in greener homes because of the young fraud costs. And they’re not gonna go into further debt and try to get loans through the greener homes loans program.
We need a specific strategy on low income and we feel like if we don’t do this, obviously there’s a justice and equity issue, and immoral not to do it, but the entire strategy is vulnerable because, it’s easy for anybody who wants to go slow on climate issues to say, “we can’t do this now because of the enormous costs that’s being put on people and affordability and equity.”
So we wanna make sure that, from a political perspective, the green building strategy stays strong but in order to do that, you’re gonna have to need to essentially set a goal that part of the green building strategy’s goal is to eliminate energy poverty in this country.
I mentioned the building performance standards as a gap. That’s another one. And a third one is really setting some timelines. So one of the things we’re really encouraging the federal government is to learn about, and be inspired by, other countries that are moving in a certain direction, both Germany and the Netherlands have set specific dates for completely transforming how heating happens in the country and the implementation of new heating systems to be zero carbon by a certain date. So we need to do that as well. And then by setting that date and sending that signal you then develop the market transformation strategies and support to help Canada get there.
But without that date and without that kind of regulation at the end, it just becomes something aspirational that we wanna do. And then the last thing that is gonna be in our comments, really around the role that the federal government can play with provinces. Certainly most of the heavy lifting related to energy efficiency in this country happens at the provincial level. And increasingly at the municipal level. And we really feel that a national green building strategy should lay out essentially the expectations of what each province and municipality can and should do to support those strategies.
And then the federal government fills in the rest. And this is similar to what, for those that follow this stuff, in the European union they have a very similar model where you’ve got the EU and then you’ve got all 34 member states underneath. There’s essentially a European union directive that says to each member state, “you shall do this, and this is what we expect from you. We’re gonna provide funding and support, to make that happen.” But without that kind of prerequisite list, you don’t get that kind of support, that kind of governance model and partnership. The federal government has done excellent work with provinces over the years, specifically in energy efficiency.
So there’s an opportunity to really ramp that up.
Allison: Fantastic. Thanks, Corey. Talking about some of the different moves that Europe is making in terms of incorporating energy efficiency, in some of our own reports that we’ve recognized that there is major challenges in terms of retrofitting existing buildings. And it could be a quarter of the cost, and much faster than some other mechanisms, to retrofit buildings. So our interest in looking at district energy as an alternative pathway for non rural districts.
Corey: One of the things we always say is, obviously we talk about building decarbonization, transportation, industrial decarbonization through specific programs that boost efficiency, but we gotta understand that energy efficiency policy is a subset of broader climate change or industrial policy. Just saying that we’re gonna solve everything through energy efficiency is shortsighted. So how energy efficiency enables and plays into other bigger policies, like how we’re gonna decarbonize our grid if there’s gonna be broader electrification, how are we going to electrify all of our heating and vehicles, without thinking about energy sources and a grid and solutions like district heating that would then enable us to do that faster.
Of course, we recognize that we’d love to be part of those kinds of conversations. We just don’t have a lot of capacity. There’s 14 of us at Efficiency Canada working on multiple different policy areas that we’ve tried to identify as priorities for us and where our expertise is and where we think we can have the influence.
But certainly we are interested in lending our support and our expertise where we can to groups that are pushing for other types of climate solutions. So we have done that with other groups. Feel free to reach out to us. It’s not an area that we have a lot of expertise in, so we haven’t done a lot of research on it, but certainly we are interested in seeing how efficiency plays in as a policy to support things like district heating.
Allison: Awesome. Thanks, Corey. So this question is about provinces supporting demand side management programs. So the question is about which provinces do currently support demand side management programs, and allow them to be included in rates. And whether we see initiatives where regulators are considering shifting back to supporting energy efficiency programs,
Corey: Right. In a number of provinces in Canada, we do have systems whereby utilities are mandated by their regulator in order to continue offering energy either through electricity or natural gas to customers. They must enable those customers to use less energy.
And a certain percentage is usually based on revenue and on the impact it has on bills and they have cost effectiveness tests in order to determine what those levels are. And they do vary across the country. So there are many different provinces that do this. We do have data that is associated with our scorecard, that basically outlines what each province is doing and how it funds its utilities to do it. Some are done directly through rates, I know in Ontario and, others are done in different ways, through Quasi-governmental program administrators.
So it does vary across the country. The only place that does not have a utility led or a program driven through something like this is Alberta. And I know our friend Jesse Rowe, and the Alberta energy efficiency Alliance are doing a ton of really smart, strategic work on that, even with the utilities who are calling for it. So maybe if you’re interested in the Alberta side, then check in with that. And if you’re interested in other provinces check our database.
Allison: Fantastic. Next question. Any examples of federal provincial or municipal regulations to include embodied carbon in the definition of net zero buildings?
Corey: Excellent question. Essentially what the federal government has done is it got the 2020 model building code out, which all the provinces have agreed to harmonize, meaning that they will adopt the 2020 model building code within 18 months at one of the five tiers.
And while that’s out, the federal government has also promised, through its mandate letter to minister Wilkinson and through its policy, that it will move towards considering embodied emissions in the next building code cycle. So the steps in that are a bit erudite, but I’ll try to explain it in a way that makes sense. Essentially NRCAN will put forward a code change request. So they send a code change request to the CCBFC requesting that a new objective be considered in the next building code and embodied carbon and emission. So that is a really important and necessary step forward, because it does clear the way for net zero emission.
Which is still really in the early stages of creating what that framework looks like. And it’s a very important piece because now the CCBFC, which is the commission, now has to deliberate on what that means and how they do it.
So what’s the impact on codes? What’s the impact on jurisdictions? What’s the impact on industry? How do we do this and how fast can we move in this, given the direction that the federal government has mandated? So it is moving not only on new buildings, but the federal government also has a parallel process that’s called the AEB, which is the alterations to existing building code.
So a building code essentially for existing buildings, and that will need to be considered as well, how to balance embodied emissions in it. So it’s all happening. It’s a very live conversation. If you’re interested in more of the details, shoot us a note. Kevin Lockhart and our team is happy to chat with anyone about it and see how he can support you in advocating for it. So that’s the status, but definitely live conversation that we’re a big part of.
Allison: That’s a great update.
What role does the Canada infrastructure bank play in all of this?
Corey: Good question. Only in the last couple years has the Canada infrastructure bank taken on more of a role in providing, investment money into the system to drive retrofits of buildings.
The Canada infrastructure bank was set up a number of years ago, 35 billion dollars to spur market investment in infrastructure. It wasn’t really set up as an impact based investor. It was more just ‘let’s get infrastructure projects going,’ but recently it’s been used more and more for bigger projects that also have kind of a decarbonization angle.
So there was 2 billion set aside for Energy for retrofits of large commercial buildings. And I see that continuing to grow, they’ve done some great work already. If you go to their website, there’s a list of projects that they’re already supporting. And I find that one of the greatest things that the Canada infrastructure bank can do in addition to obviously putting money into the system is to create really good, strong case studies to show and to de-risk future investments like it. So if the Canada infrastructure bank comes first and says, we’re gonna do this kind of investment, we feel not only are we gonna get ready to return on this, but we’re also gonna get the kind of decarbonization, that we need, that provides inspiration for the market to then bring other funds into it for similar types of projects.
So the best thing they can do is say: this is how you outline what a, a green retrofit looks like and what we are considering when we invest. And if it works, then that checklist can then be used by any private investor as they try to decarbonize their real estate portfolio as well. So to me, the 2 billion is great, obviously to you and I two, billion’s a lot of money, but in the amount of money that’s being invested in the real estate in Canada, it’s peanuts.
So the greatest thing that it can do as it continues to invest is make sure that they’re showing that these are really strong investments and that, that others in the private sector can then do similar projects, with, knowing that they’ll get a rate of return, but also meet targets that they’ve set to reduce their real estate, emissions.
Allison: So just circling back to embodied carbon, If embodied carbon was to come into codes, do you feel like building teams are prepared to calculate and incorporate embodied carbon into their construction process?
And if not what’s missing?
Corey: Absolutely not. And not being an engineer or anything, I don’t know the details of it, but there’s definitely a lack of data, right now in every aspect related to embodied emissions and embodied carbon. One of the big things that has to happen alongside this is a really strong process to collect and analyze data and make that data available to anyone who is thinking about this and without a common, set of data and a common metric system for people to look at it’s gonna be very difficult for people to make decisions on how to meet a embodied emissions code. I know Kevin on our team works with lots of different people across the country. Chris Magwood is a leader in this and he’s done some work on this, but agreement on the data is gonna be really important and that needs to start right now. I know there’s some work being done, at the federal government on working with industry specifically like cement and concrete around that. And how to make sure that there’s a common set of rules to track this so that people know, and that they’re not just saying that it’s zero emission cement, so there’s some work being done there.
And I think a lot more needs to be done at all levels of how a building’s constructed. Not easy. So we’re definitely not there yet. And we need a lot more effort and support, to build out that common set. And then from there, then we can then say, okay, this is what we agree on. Now we can mandate kind of certain changes and things.
Allison: Fantastic. So bit more of an existential question. What are you the most encouraged by right now?
Corey: Good question. I don’t know. I know the cheesy answer, but the cheesy answer is the right answer, which is: people. I’m the most encouraged every day when I talk to people, when I get to work with these great people at Efficiency Canada, all our partners and everyone.
It’s the passion of the people in this sector that are gonna make this thing happen. There’s no other way. And it used to be a bit of a dynamic where you’d have people who are advocates and NGOs pushing from the outside. You’d have people inside government or doing things that need to have funders and other stakeholders around.
And there’d be these weird power dynamics, people protecting turf and things like that. It’s no longer like that. And what we have now is this interlace network of really good, strong, passionate people who play different roles. And there’s someone in the civil service and there’s someone on the political side.
And there’s someone at the funder and there’s someone in our team and everybody’s working together to play their role to achieve something big at the end. So to me, that’s encouraging that we’re all just like a bunch of good people trying to come together to drive transformative change that has existential outcomes. And so it is an exciting time, there’s so many awesome, great people that we work with, there’s people that we featured as part of Our Human Energy, who just have the most amazing, passionate, excellent stories of their career paths, who love talking about this stuff and inspire others to come into this sector.
That’s what’s gonna get us there. And policies when we win, it’s awesome. And obviously, our group, if we get a win or we get funding, it’s great. And we all are super happy, but to me, the encouragement comes from all of you, just the people out there.
So that’s my cheesy, but real, answer because it’s true.
Allison: Talk about some of the conversations you’re having right now that are exciting to you or where you’re seeing some really key and critical movements.
Corey: So I just have a slice of our work. Others are having conversations all day, every day and I have certain conversations and things. So from my perspective, the slice that is interesting is, there really is a recognition now. It used to be we were all siloed in the do-gooding world and you’d have climate people here and social equity people here and people working on anti-racism here.
And a lot of that has disappeared and I think the recognition that the same power structures that have got us to where the world is today are, all of our solutions are aimed at eliminating and bringing down those kinds of power structures.
To me, what’s really exciting is, the conversations I have get to be where we’re advancing policies that have impact on more than one typical kind of siloed issue. And so I love the work we’re doing on energy, poverty, and eliminating energy poverty, because it opens us up to having different discussions with different people.
I was talking to Luke Connell from Omega foundation recently. And he was telling me that one of the coolest things they do to try to help encourage more low income people to take advantage of these kind of free programs and energy efficiency is work with tax consultants. So they work with accountants that essentially do taxes for people that can’t afford to get accountants.
And through that process, they’re identifying people that are perfect candidates for someone to come in and do some energy upgrades for them. So many cool things where you see these great intersections between driving solutions for one also impacts solutions for another. And then you realize that it really is one big fight.
And if you’re smart and you create good partnerships, then you can address multiple issues at the same time with the same solutions. So that’s pretty cool. And that’s an exciting kind of thing to be part of when I stumble into those conversations.
Allison: Awesome. Thanks. And I will just mention that if you are interested in learning more about Efficiency Canada updates, Like I was mentioning before, please join our email list. If you wanna take it a step further, we do have an ally program where you’ll get the insider information about the conversations we’re having and the work we’re doing before we even release it and the ability to be part of these conversations, if you are interested at all in becoming an ally with Efficiency Canada, reach out to me, happy to chat anytime. So thank you everyone for coming today.