Opinion

Stronger energy-saving measures just makes sense

A win for our economy, consumers and the climate? It may sound like an elusive unicorn, but energy efficiency checks all of the above boxes. Although they are under-reported, measures to help homes, small businesses and industry save on energy are a win-win for Canada: good for the climate and for Canadian competitiveness.

The federal government’s Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change has introduced a number of energy-saving measures as a way to cut carbon pollution and help Canada meet its Paris Agreement targets. These forthcoming federal policies (some of which require provincial support to be implemented) will update building codes for existing and new buildings, requiring them to use less energy. These measures also include new standards for appliances and heating equipment.

What does a more energy efficient future mean for Canadians?

Clean Energy Canada and Efficiency Canada hired Dunsky Energy Consulting to model the net economic impacts of energy efficiency measures in the pan-Canadian framework. Our research considers how multiple industries will be affected — both positively and negatively — and how those effects in turn impact Canada’s GDP and employment levels. We also modelled what the impacts would be if Canada went a step further, implementing the most ambitious efficiency goals found in jurisdictions across North America.

Here’s what we found.

Canada’s GDP will get a 1 percent boost over 14 years thanks to energy efficiency measures in the pan-Canadian framework (see figure). This growth comes partly from spending on upgrades, but mostly it comes from all the money households and businesses will save on energy over time — money that’s then reinvested in local economies.

Projected average annual impact of energy efficiency measures on GDP and employment, Canada

Projected average annual impact of energy efficiency measures on GDP and employment, Canada

Households can expect to save $114 a year, on average. What’s more, our model suggests that an average of 118,000 annual jobs will be created over this time period, due to economic activity associated with energy efficiency.

As for the climate, the current measures will help Canada cut one-quarter of the carbon pollution that it must eliminate to meet our international commitments. That’s big, although, as a recent report from provincial and federal auditors general revealed, more will need to be done than is currently planned if Canada is to hit its 2030 climate target. One solution would be even stronger energy efficiency measures. If Canada implemented North America’s strongest efficiency policies nationally, energy efficiency could cut 79 million tonnes of carbon pollution: that’s 40 percent of the difference between current emissions projections for 2030 and our Paris target.

Indeed, the benefits of energy efficiency are already being realized in provinces across the country. Take Nova Scotia. Through a number of programs introduced a decade ago, the province has reduced its energy consumption by 10 percent, helping Nova Scotians save $166 million annually, while cutting 840,000 tonnes of carbon pollution every year.

Energy efficiency may not draw as much attention as other policy solutions, but make no mistake: it’s one of the most important — and certainly most cost-effective — ways to upgrade Canada for the future.

And by and large, Canadians like energy efficiency. Recent public opinion research from Environics Research found that 88 percent of Canadians were interested in buying more efficient appliances, 79 percent in upgrading their homes to save energy and 78 percent in switching to more efficient heating and cooling systems.

No matter how you slice it, the numbers tell the same story: energy efficiency just makes sense. And as the research shows, more of a good thing would equal an even better outcome for Canadians.

This article was co-authored by Corey Diamond, executive director of Efficiency Canada, and  originally appeared in Policy Options.