How Much More Energy Efficient Could Canada Be?

Greensaver is Ontario’s leading energy efficiency not-for-profit. We deliver energy conservation programs that help people, businesses, and utility companies reduce energy consumption and lower energy costs. However, energy efficiency is much broader than merely the work we do, which leads to an important question: how much more energy-efficient could Canada be?

Why is Energy Efficiency Important to Canada and the World?

Climate change is arguably the greatest challenge of our time. We can only overcome it if we limit warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, as agreed upon in the 2015 Paris agreement

The United Nations considers energy efficiency as vital in the fight against climate change. As a result, they have set a target of doubling the global rate by 2030 as part of their Sustainable Development Goals. The International Energy Agency also considers energy efficiency as having a “central role in tackling climate change.”

For Canada to meet its 2015 Paris agreement targets, it must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. The Canadian government has also unveiled plans to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Energy efficiency involves using less energy to do the same task, emitting fewer greenhouse gases. Along the way, improving energy efficiency will help Canada and other nations meet their Paris goals and limit warming to 1.5°C.

How Much More Energy Efficient Could Canada and the World Be?

The global potential for energy efficiency is enormous. As reported by the International Energy Agency, around two-thirds of economically viable, global energy efficiency measures currently in existence have not yet been implemented. 

In Canada, energy efficiency policies, coupled with further energy efficiency savings, such as zero-carbon building designs, could lead to energy savings of 1.9% per year until 2050. Such savings would reduce long-term energy demand significantly.

Therefore, Canada could be a great deal more energy-efficient than it currently is. While energy efficiency measures alone will not ensure that Canada reaches its Paris agreement targets. Such actions could play an essential role in reducing emissions and overcoming climate change.

How Would Canada Being More Energy Efficient Reduce Greenhouse Gases?

According to the International Energy Agency, Canada’s highest energy efficiency savings could be found in buildings and transport. Further savings can be found in energy conservation programs.

Buildings

In buildings, Canada could achieve significant energy efficiency by building zero-carbon buildings and implementing more stringent environmental building codes for existing structures. To learn more about zero-carbon buildings, read our earlier article: Zero-Carbon Buildings, a Guide to the Technology

Transport

Canada could improve its energy efficiency in transport by deploying new car designs to improve fuel efficiency and electrifying vehicles. Such actions could reduce Canadian passenger cars’ fuel consumption by one-third by 2050 and heavy-duty truck consumption by half

Energy Conservation Programs

Greensaver delivers energy conservation programs on behalf of electricity and gas utilities in Ontario. Such programs – such as our two flagship programs, the Energy Affordability Program and the Home Winterproofing Program – also have a vital role in reducing Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.

As the Conference Board of Canada has noted, “Canada’s electricity and natural gas utilities, which are responsible for implementing the majority of energy efficiency programming, expect that the largest efficiency improvements from their actions will result from programs that span across multiple sectors.” Such sectors could include individuals, businesses, and social housing providers.

In 2019, Greensaver’s energy conservation achieved savings of 34,683 metric tons of carbon dioxide for individuals across Ontario. Previously, we also delivered energy conservation programs for small businesses.

What Are the Barriers to Increased Energy Efficiency?

The main barrier to energy efficiency is the upfront cost of measures, with benefits only coming in the long-term. The high upfront costs can be prohibitive for individuals and small businesses.

What Would Happen if Canada Became More Energy Efficient?

The most apparent consequence of enhancing energy efficiency in Canada would be a reduction in overall energy demand. As discussed, most savings would be found in buildings and transport. Such savings would also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 250 tonnes by 2050.

Individuals would also see their energy bills decrease. Improving energy efficiency would result in the average Canadian households spending only 2.2% of their household income on energy for housing and transportation, compared to 5.1% in 2016.

Conclusion: Canada Could be Significantly More Energy Efficient

In conclusion, Canada needs to invest significantly in energy efficiency in the coming months and years to fulfill its significant energy efficiency potential. Energy efficiency has a crucial role to play in ensuring that the country meets its 2030 and 2050 Paris commitments and that the world wins the fight against climate change.

However, energy efficiency alone cannot reduce Canada’s emissions enough to meet these targets. Currently, hydrocarbons, including oil, coal, and natural gas, account for 60% of the country’s primary energy demand. This mix must change if Canada is to meet its climate change commitments.

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