Less is More: Energy conservation is common sense

What’s stopping Ontario from creating 25,000 jobs while slashing government deficits, boosting GDP and cutting greenhouse gas emissions? Not much really.

To make this happen, it’s a matter of doing more of the things we all do every day: turn off lights, insulate, buy more energy efficient appliances. We all conserve energy every day, but we can do much more to save more. And to do so, we need government to lead.

That’s why in our report released today, we’re calling for Ontario to embrace a bold but achievable plan to cut energy use by 25 per cent by 2025, a plan we’re calling “25 by 25.”

According to economic analysis we commissioned, achieving “25 by 25” would deliver all the benefits mentioned above: 25,000 new jobs, $3.7 billion more in GDP, lower deficits for both the federal and provincial governments and a nine per cent reduction in carbon emissions. Sounds like common sense to us.

How can conservation deliver all these benefits? First of all, conservation is cheaper than new generation.  For example, energy conservation initiatives in Ontario have cost about 3 cents per kilowatt-hour while electricity from gas plants costs between nine and 29 cents per kilowatt-hour.

In addition, saving energy means saving money, and this leaves more money to be spent on other things. Energy conservation is also more labour intensive than new generation, which means that it creates more jobs per dollar spent. And finally, Ontario imports all our natural gas. Spending on conservation instead of new gas plants means that we’re stimulating our local economy, instead of sending money out of the province.

Oh, and there’s also the fact that the longer we wait to confront climate change, the more costly it will be. At least, according to the International Energy Agency, the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, and many others. And while energy conservation alone won’t stop the planet from warming, it a critical part of the solution and can buy us some much needed time.

Ontario has dabbled in energy conservation in the past, and had some pretty decent results. Indeed, the province estimates that between 2005 and 2011, conservation programs saved enough energy to power 600,000 homes. But there is still much more to be done. We use 50 per cent more energy than New York State, and double that of the U.K. And yet, these jurisdictions are still doing more to save more. So can we.

Energy conservation is also big business. The global market for energy efficient buildings alone is projected to top $100 billion by 2017. Ontario could capture a sizeable share of the growing demand for energy efficient goods and services. We have the skilled labour pool, the manufacturing expertise, and are already home to a number of companies at the cutting edge of energy conservation and efficiency.  

There is broad consensus for more aggressive action on conservation. The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters are onside, our gas distributors, Enbridge and Union gas are onside, and environmental groups are obviously onside. So there’s really nothing stopping us.

Now is the time to move forward. The province is currently reviewing its Long-Term Energy Plan and looking to increase the role energy conservation plays. It needs to prioritize energy conservation, and embrace a bold but achievable target that positions Ontario as a leader in this field, for the sake of our economy and our environment.