Opinion - Kim Fry: Energy savings missing cog in Nova Scotia's net-zero wheel | Ecology Action Centre

Opinion - Kim Fry: Energy savings missing cog in Nova Scotia's net-zero wheel

Originally published in the Chronicle Herald on Nov. 17, 2021

Mi’kma’ki/Nova Scotia has a strong history of energy efficiency programming and demonstrating leadership in building energy performance. So at the Ecology Action Centre, we’ve been watching closely to see how our province ranked in the 2021Canadian Provincial Energy Efficiency Scorecard, which was released earlier today.

Efficiency Canada’s scorecard looks at 54 separate metrics, representing 16 topics across energy efficiency programs, enabling policies, buildings, transportation and industry. Scoring is out of 100 points. Every province should be aiming for 100 and unfortunately, all have a long way to go.

Provincial efficiency programs built over the last 20 years landed us at third place in the scorecard, but this is actually a step back from our former position as national leaders in efficiency.

Our third-place ranking shows we continue to be stalled, and though comparatively our province is ranked quite high, we are still not doing what is required to adequately address the climate emergency. We need to quickly ramp up efforts in this area and build on our early success.

Efficiency is a critical pillar to mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and building resilient, affordable communities. As a province, we can’t rest on our laurels while others begin to catch up and surpass us.

We lost the majority of our potential points because of a lack of mandatory government policies, such as net-zero energy building codes (British Columbia is a leader in this area), energy reporting (in which Ontario leads) and energy savings standards. The surprising lack of comprehensive energy efficiency goals in the new Environmental Goals and Climate Change Reduction Act (EGCCRA) was another missed opportunity and disappointing because our province has traditionally been a strong leader in this area.

The scorecard shows that Mi’kma’ki/Nova Scotia remains strong in energy efficiency programs, saving the most electricity as a percentage of sales in 2020. It also highlights that our province has clear targets for renewables (80 per cent of electricity by 2030), yet doesn’t have a demand-reduction goal. Increasing energy savings is critical because it makes hitting the renewable goal easier and also mitigates overreliance on hydroelectric imports that deliver few local benefits.

By saving electricity through efficiency and conservation, we free up more clean electricity (renewables) that can simultaneously support vehicle electrification and reduce fuel oil heating.

This meets goals of both cutting greenhouse gas emissions and addressing the issue of energy poverty. Despite their effectiveness, energy savings remain undervalued. This is reflected in the Integrated Resource Plan from Nova Scotia Power which didn’t include a long-term carbon price and does not consider the benefits of greenhouse gas reductions and customer bill savings that come from replacing heating and transportation fossil fuel with electricity.

To stay a leader in energy efficiency and move the province on the pathway to net-zero, we need to scale up inclusive deep energy upgrades and ensure 100 per cent of eligible social housing is net-zero energy ready by 2030. This will help people living in social housing save energy, save money and be more comfortable in their homes. This not only improves their quality of life but also reduces energy poverty within the province, and gives a boost to the energy efficiency industry. To do this would create more than 9,000 jobs in the province between now and 2030.

To succeed at reducing emissions by 2022, or even by 2025, every month and year matters. There is a scientific consensus that we’re in the critical decade for climate action, and investments and progress in energy efficiency play a critical role in helping the province get greenhouse gas emissions down quickly.

We need renewed leadership in Mi’kma’ki/Nova Scotia on energy efficiency, including a provincial climate plan that recognizes the opportunities that energy savings provide.

 

Kim Fry (she/her) is the energy efficiency coordinator with the Ecology Action Centre and a long-time climate justice activist.

 

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