Stop wasting energy

July 13, 2018

Save energy save money

Action on climate change has increased in all parts of Canadian society – individuals, business, civil society and government. The expected backlash from usual suspects is probably the best evidence of this activity, because it sure it isn’t a decline in national greenhouse gas emissions.

Paradoxically, I wonder whether our focus on climate change might be getting in the way of reducing emissions, especially in a country that produces oil and gas for domestic and export markets.

A few Canadian communities have been jumping on the “100% renewable energy” bandwagon. I get it from a branding perspective. Trying to sell a vision of “an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas pollution by 2050 based on 1990 levels” is tricky and not recommended. So, it is tempting to take a short cut.

The problem with short cuts is that they don’t always get you where you want to go. Nowhere is this truer than in making public policy. It just can’t be done in 140 characters, or even 280.

Technical, financial and regulatory roadblocks make this short cut less than an ideal route for a community to choose, and I say that as someone with solar panels on my home. Top of the list for me is how this political short cut keeps us in a rut of endlessly arguing about fossil fuels versus renewable energy and pipelines versus turbines while our emissions continue to grow. 

Communities have far more to gain if they would focus on where and how they use energy; they also happen to be in the best position to do this. Any serious look at energy demand in a community reveals just how much energy we waste. By serious, I mean using data instead of only pinning our hopes on bright and shiny objects to solve our problems.

Most Ontario homes and buildings use far more energy than we need to keep us comfortable. Industries are more efficient but they still release valuable thermal energy into the environment instead of capturing it for another use. Even the way we generate and distribute power to our homes and businesses wastes scads of energy.

Getting rid of energy waste will lower energy bills in Ontario. Community energy planning is the best tool we have to root out energy waste. Environmentalists can also take heart because emission reduction goes hand in hand with reducing energy waste.

Good luck advancing a 100% renewable vision in Ontario these day. Keeping energy dollars in people’s pockets might have more traction and still get you where you want to go - maybe faster than you think.

Local renewable energy makes more sense when you don’t start off wasting it.