For the past year my team at the Canadian Energy Efficiency Alliance has been wrestling with a nagging question: How can we make energy efficiency a higher priority for governments and consumers? Elected leaders like the idea of efficiency, and pundits love to call it the “low-hanging fruit”—but public policy has yet to catch up. Similarly, efficiency considerations are not always front-of-mind when citizens make choices in the marketplace.
In response, we spent much of the past year doing our homework. We consulted with members, fielded a national survey on Canadian attitudes towards energy efficiency, and gathered industry feedback at a Thought Leaders Forum in April.
The result is a new white paper, released today, that I’m quite proud of: Priorities for Energy Efficiency Market Development. It outlines our national advocacy plan, and serves as a bit of a reboot for our organization. Here are the top-level themes:
Examine Energy Efficiency Challenges
We began by looking at the challenges. The economy is difficult. Greenhouse gases aren’t a number one concern—which, given the climate shifts we’ve been experiencing, is frankly astonishing. Natural gas is bountiful with North America’s shale deposits, which makes it cheap. And of course Canada has that one embarrassing international energy efficiency scorecard.
Identify Energy Efficiency Trends
Evidence is mounting that energy efficiency has an economic, environmental and job creating spin-off effect. Governments are realizing some budget constraints can be addressed with a conservation and energy efficiency agenda—hello, President Obama! And building codes are finally growing some teeth—Canada’s 2011 National Energy Code for Buildings is 25 percent more stringent than its previous iteration.
Focus on Key Areas to Advance Energy Efficiency
Our survey and conference proved critical here. We had discussion topics at the one-day event which helped us determine what we should prioritize. Topics included: working with governments, strategic message communication, transportation, training and education and the built environment.
Brainstorm Energy Efficiency Initiatives
These are the five action areas we are focusing on, and a few of the initiatives we hope to develop:
1. Collaborate with Stakeholders
We hope to Partner with the federal and provincial governments to host information sessions on energy efficiency initiatives, policies, regulations and programs. We also expect to work with financial institutions such as banks and credit unions, to develop and promote green mortgages and “green insurance” policies.
2. Communicate Energy Efficiency Messages
Our recent survey found that Canadians want to conserve energy—particularly electricity in the home. We expect to continue researching public attitudes towards energy efficiency. We’ll also continue to reach out to consumers, industry and government to share news and information about energy efficiency trends and products.
3. Focus on Transportation and Energy Efficiency
We hope to boost our membership within the transportation sector, and work with the sector to deliver a transportation strategy.
4. Advance Energy Efficiency Training and Education
Look for us to promote the benefits of pursuing highly-skilled “green collar” jobs, and partner with governments to deliver an educational tool linking incentives to training and certification programs.
5. Priotitize the Built Environment
We will continue advocating for the adoption of new national building code standards by all provinces. We’ll also advocate for more equitable municipal regulations and full enforcement of codes.
Today’s advocacy plan follows on the heels of our submission to Ontario’s Long-Term Energy Plan review, which we released earlier this week. We hope you can take some time to read these, see where we’d like to go, and give some thought to how you can be a part of it.