By Debora Van Brenk, The London Free Press June 5, 2012 8:06pm
The province gets a grade of “incomplete” for failing to enact mandatory home energy audits, failing to introduce appliance standards and failing to ban incandescent bulbs — all conservation pledges it made three years ago, Gord Miller said.
“We promised to set standards and we floundered.” His report to the legislature Tuesday assesses the province’s energy-savings progress since the Green Energy Act was introduced three years ago.
The act’s two key elements are developing renewable, clean energy sources and persuading Ontarians to practise a “culture of conservation.”
Miller said Tuesday the Liberals have “quietly abandoned” some conservation commitments and left other promises orphans.
“The bold new plan has given way to caution and timidity,” said Miller, who is appointed by the provincial legislature but whose office operates at arm’s length from it.
Some of the three-year-old promises Miller said have been left unfulfilled:
Every home sold in Ontario must have an energy audit.
The Liberals passed this into law but it’s never been enacted with specific regulations.
“It’s really just consumer protection and we demand this in any other field,” Miller said.
“Why is it the most expensive purchase we make, which is the home, we don’t know (its) energy efficiency?” Miller asked. “Well, it just didn’t happen.” Less-efficient appliances continue to be sold, and they consume as much as 40% more energy.
A ban on screw-in incandescent light bulbs.
Incandescent bulbs convert most of their light to heat and are the least efficient lighting type. The federal government decided in October 2011 to implement a ban in 2014, and five months later Ontario chose the same deadline. As a result Canadians will spend $300 million more on energy than they should.
Energy retrofits to government and public buildings haven’t been monitored to determine just how much energy they’re saving.
Miller did praise the province for changing building codes to reflect more energy-efficient construction practices and materials.
Though some aspects of the Green Energy Act have been contentious — notably the effect on customers’ bills and on rural Ontario life of its financial incentives in wind and solar energy — Miller said conservation was always supposed to be a cornerstone of the Green Energy Act.
Miller said the conservation promises have had some successes but overall have been little more than unrealized potential.
“The conservation promises of the Green Energy Act remain unfulfilled and possibly years away from completion.”
Ontario Energy Minister Chris Bentley: “The Green Energy Act has been a tremendous success,” Bentley said, including its “very aggressive” conservation targets. The province is getting good results with voluntary conservation measures, he said. The plan to make energy audits mandatory with every home sale prompted “very active debate” and was scratched after public consultation. Objection came from several quarters, including the Canadian Real Estate Association and those who argued that home buyers would ultimately bear the cost of every audit. The incandescent light bulb ban was delayed to synchronize it with the timing of the feds’ ban, Bentley said. As for mandatory minimum standards for appliances, “we have made progress there.”
He points to 15 regulations covering 50 appliance groups and work continues on others.
MPP Peter Tabuns, NDP Energy critic: Four out of five critical conservation promises remain unfulfilled, “The government dropped the ball. . . After a while the message is pretty clear: this is a back-burner issue for them.” An upgrade to minimum standard for appliances “is the lowest cost thing that they could do” to conserve and they’re not doing it, he said.
MPP Lisa Thompson, deputy Progressive Conservative critic for energy focusing on the Green Energy Act: Too little attention has been paid to conservation, even as high-priced wind and solar energy takes centre stage. The green portfolio has been “totally mismanaged” and Ontarians keep paying more than ever for energy, while exporting it at lower cost to other jurisdictions. “This plan has never taken flight. . . They’re so busy cleaning up one mess, they don’t have time to clean up another.” commissioner’s recommendations Mandatory home energy efficiency audits/disclosures for home buyers
Annual public reports on energy consumption by government ministries Building code should be reviewed every five years to determine where environmental improvements could be made.
Conservation plans should be developed for all public sector buildings and then energy audits and reporting should take place regularly for all government and public sector buildings.
Energy-use accounting should include government fleet vehicles
Set efficiency standards for appliances and light bulbs that make Ontario conservation leaders in North America.