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Op-Ed: The role of energy efficiency in climate and sustainability goals

Reducing energy costs

Canada is well positioned to demonstrate leadership and fiscal responsibility simultaneously; creating an economy that is stronger, more resilient, and designed to capitalize on a low-carbon future. Investments in clean energy and increasing energy efficiency will create thousands of jobs, make buildings more climate resilient, and provide more sustainable transportation options right across the country.

These changes are critical to the future of Canada and the adoption of a low carbon/net-zero future. We must be sure that we recognize the important role that energy efficiency can play in the mix. The energy efficiency sector is a significant contributor to climate change mitigation and sustainability goals and plays a major role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions right here in Atlantic Canada.

Since 2010, Efficiency Nova Scotia programs have contributed to over 25% of achieved GHG reductions in Nova Scotia. Energy efficiency is a fast and cost-effective way for individuals and businesses to save money by reducing energy costs, while also reducing their climate impact. It should be the first choice for policy makers to achieve emission reduction targets. The International Energy Agency calls energy efficiency the “hidden fuel”, stating that it could enable the world to achieve more than 40% of the emissions cuts needed to reach its climate goals without new technology.

The federal government’s recent Throne Speech laid out a plan for the post COVID economy, creating a stronger more resilient Canada by fighting climate change and building long-term competitiveness with clean growth. Last week, the Canada Infrastructure Bank also announced a $10 billion investment which includes $2 billion for large-scale energy efficient building retrofits.

All of this will help us exceed Canada’s climate goals by 2030 and realize a net zero emission Canada by 2050.

Here at home, the Sustainable Development Goals Act sets an ambitious new goal to achieve net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 with actions that advance Nova Scotia’s economic, social, and environmental wellbeing. To do this, we should:

  1. Optimize Electrical Energy Use in Existing Building – Reducing the electricity load through energy efficiency by 1.5% annually, beginning in 2023 through to 2050.
  2. Reduce Fossil Fuel Use in Existing Buildings – Eliminating oil usage in homes and businesses for space and water heating by 2050 for the approximately 250,000 existing buildings using fossil fuels.
  3. Adopt Higher Energy Efficiency Standards for New Buildings – Requiring energy labelling, conducting training, and adopting zero carbon standards by 2024.
  4. Reduce GHG Emissions from Road Transportation – Supporting the adoption of less GHG-intensive energy sources for road vehicles reducing emissions by 75% by 2050.
  5. Reduce Energy Poverty – Making the benefits of energy efficiency available to all Nova Scotians, placing a greater focus on reducing the burden of energy costs on low to moderate income families.

Energy efficiency is a Nova Scotia growth industry. We have been recognized as # 1 in Canada in the design and administration of energy efficiency programs. We currently have the highest concentration of energy efficiency managers and advisors in the country and are seeing growth every year. Our Efficiency Trade Network provides training and support to over 370 companies who employee over 2,500 people across the province. Investing in energy efficiency not only has an impact on achieving climate change targets, but also creates more green jobs. These goals build on the significant GHG reductions already achieved in Nova Scotia from energy efficiency and continue to position Nova Scotia as a leader in Canada in climate change results that are proven and effective.

Stephen MacDonald is the Chief Executive Officer of EfficiencyOne, the non-profit operator of Efficiency Nova Scotia. EfficiencyOne is a leader in the design and delivery of resource efficiency programs and services for homes, businesses, and large industrial customers. To date, EfficiencyOne, operating in Nova Scotia as Efficiency Nova Scotia, has helped over 400,000 program participants and achieved more than $1 billion in energy savings, avoiding nearly 1 million tonnes of CO2 annually. Learn more at www.efficiencyns.ca