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Where is Ontarios Culture of Conservation ? (Environmental Commissioner’s media release + backgrounder + remarks)
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Media Release

Where is Ontario’s "Culture of Conservation?"

Toronto, June 5, 2012 – Ontario’s Environmental
Commissioner says the Ontario government appears
to have forgotten one of the important goals of
its own Green Energy and Green Economy Act (GEGEA).

Gord Miller made the observation today as he
released the Annual Energy Conservation Progress
Report – 2011 (Volume One) which reviews the
government’s progress to date on its energy
conservation promises and makes recommendations
on how the government can fulfill its GEGEA
commitments. The Green Energy and Green Economy
Act gave the Environmental Commissioner the
responsibility for reviewing the progress of
energy conservation activities in Ontario.

The Environmental Commissioner says "when the
GEGEA was introduced, the government said that
fostering a ‘culture of conservation’ was just as
important as increasing the amount of renewable energy."

"But three years after its passage" notes Gord
Miller, "many of the bill’s conservation promises
remain unfulfilled, or in the case of mandatory
energy audits before the sale of a home,
completely abandoned. Instead of fostering ‘a
culture of conservation’ the Ontario government
seems intent on making it an orphan."

The Environmental Commissioner points to three
energy conservation promises that were never acted on by the government:

– The government has not introduced ENERGY STAR®
standards for household appliances such as
refrigerators, clothes washers, and dishwashers.
This would have stopped the sale of less
efficient products that consume 20 to 40 per cent more energy.

– It failed to make energy audits mandatory prior
to the sale of homes. Homebuyers currently have
limited access to information about a home’s
energy use. The residential sector accounts for
21 per cent of all energy use in Ontario.

– The government has not yet banned the sale of
the ‘inefficient’ screw-in incandescent light
bulbs, which it promised to do by 2012. The
federal and Ontario governments have now delayed
the ban for two years. This delay will cost
Canadians as much as 0 million dollars in higher energy costs.

The Environmental Commissioner says the Ontario
government does deserve praise for making the
Ontario Building Code more energy efficient and
for requiring municipalities, school boards,
hospitals and colleges and universities to
develop energy conservation plans and to report
on their organization’s energy usage. But Gord
Miller notes this is an arm’s-length approach to
conservation "that leaves conservation
disconnected from people’s day-to-day lives."

"You cannot foster a ‘culture of conservation’ in
Ontario" states Miller, "unless you take actions
that actually engage the individual consumer or homeowner."


For more information or to arrange interviews, contact:

Maria Leung
Communications and Outreach Coordinator
Environmental Commissioner of Ontario
416-325-3371 / 416-819-1673

The report is available for download at

Aussi disponible en français.

For French language release and bilingual
support, please contact: Jean-Marc Filion, 705-476-9665.

The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario is the
province’s independent environmental watchdog.
Appointed by the Legislative Assembly, the ECO
monitors and reports on compliance with the
Environmental Bill of Rights, the government’s
progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and
its actions towards achieving greater energy conservation in Ontario.


Restoring Balance, A Review of the First Three Years of the Green Energy Act
Annual Energy Conservation Progress Report – 2011 (Volume One)

Under the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993, the
Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO)
reports annually to the Legislative Assembly of
Ontario on the province’s progress in energy conservation.

This report is Volume One of the 2011 annual
energy report and reviews policy development. It
has been three years since the Green Energy Act,
2009 (GEA) took effect in May 2009. There has
been much activity since then related to the
renewable generation provisions of the Act, as is
evident by the creation and refinement of the
province’s Feed-in Tariff (FIT). In the ECO’s
view, much less effort has been directed at the
conservation-related provisions and policies of the Act.

The report focuses on four key energy
conservation policy commitments made to develop a
culture of conservation, which accompanied the
government’s release of the GEA. Overall, three
years in, the ECO believes that the conservation
promises of the GEA remain unfulfilled and
possibly still years away from completion.

Commitment One: "North American leading energy
efficiency standards (Energy Star) for household
appliances, including efficient use of water"

There is little evidence that the Ontario
government has given product energy efficiency
standards a high priority since 2009. Energy
efficiency standards set a minimum energy
efficiency level that a product must meet to be
legally sold. Over time, as technology improves
and products become more energy-efficient, the
bar is typically raised by increasing minimum
efficiency standards. None of the regulatory
changes Ontario has proposed to date would set
efficiency levels for major appliances that are
higher than Canadian or U.S. requirements.

The ECO believes that minimum efficiency
standards can and should play an important role
in reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas
emissions in Ontario, complementing conservation
programs. The ECO believes that the Ministry of
Energy missed an opportunity to save Ontarians
energy and money, shortly after passage of the
GEA, by not acting to implement the ENERGY STAR®
standard as the minimum performance standard for
certain products. The Ministry of Energy should
lead an analysis to identify which products offer
the most promising opportunities for saving
energy in Ontario. For these products, Ontario
should work with the federal government to
strengthen national standards. If unsuccessful, the province should act alone.

The ECO recommends that the Ministry of Energy
set North American-leading energy efficiency
standards for key products with the greatest
potential for Ontario to save energy.

Commitment Two: "Mandatory home energy audits prior to sale of homes"

The intent of this commitment was to make the
energy efficiency of a home transparent through a
rating provided prior to the sale. This helps
buyers understand a home’s energy use and
on-going operating costs – what is sometimes
referred to as the "second bill" of a home
purchase. During consultation, both strong
support and opposition for this commitment was
expressed by stakeholders, and the Act was
amended prior to passage to accommodate the
diverse views. Although the Green Energy Act was
passed in May 2009, the section related to
mandatory home energy efficiency disclosure has
not yet been proclaimed into force, and no action appears forthcoming.

The ECO believes that the public interest is
being harmed by the government’s inaction on
mandatory home energy audits. Society no longer
tolerates a lack of disclosure for the energy
performance of products, such as vehicles and
appliances, and it should be no different for
home ownership – the largest economic commitment
most people make in their lives.

The ECO recommends that the government proclaim
and implement the provision for mandatory home
energy efficiency disclosure in the Green Energy Act, 2009.

Commitment Three "Making energy efficiency a
central tenet of Ontario’s Building Code"

Ontario’s Building Code is a regulation that sets
mandatory requirements that must be met by all
new buildings and certain types of renovations.
The Code’s primary and original purpose was to
ensure public health and safety, but it has also
been used to advance other social priorities,
including barrier-free access for Ontarians with
disabilities and conservation of resources. The
Code is one of the most important conservation
tools available to the Ontario government because
it affects the energy consumption of all new buildings.

Since the passage of the GEA, the government has
established an advisory committee on energy
efficiency in buildings, successfully implemented
higher efficiency requirements in 2012, and
proposed even higher standards for the next
edition of the Code (although these changes have
not been finalized). The ECO believes the
government has met the original intent of its
commitment. However, the ECO is concerned that
the five-year review of the Code’s energy
efficiency provisions is inadequate given the
pace of development occurring in some parts of the province.

The ECO recommends that the Ministry of Municipal
Affairs and Housing review energy conservation
amendments to the Ontario Building Code more
frequently than the current five-year cycle.

Commitment Four "Green Ontario government and
broader public sector buildings; including the
development of conservation plans"

Public sector buildings are large users of
electricity and natural gas, and greening these
buildings can reduce energy consumption of both
fuels. Commendably, the government passed a
regulation requiring annual reporting of energy
consumption, as well as the creation of energy
conservation plans by municipalities, municipal
service boards, post-secondary educational
institutions, public hospitals, and school
boards. The ECO believes that the annual
reporting template (which has yet to be
finalized) should allow other energy use
information, such as fleets and street lighting,
to be voluntarily submitted by public agencies.
Tracking and reporting on these forms of energy
consumption would drive additional conservation efforts.

The ECO recommends that the Ministry of Energy
expand the annual energy reporting requirements
for the Broader Public Sector to include fleets
and other key energy-consuming operations.

The ECO urges the government, through its
directive power, to require comparable action for
Ontario government facilities. A strong
conservation plan could make the government a
leader and serve as a model for the Broader Public Sector.

The ECO recommends that the Minister of
Infrastructure issue a directive requiring
annual, public reports of energy consumption for
all government ministries and an energy
conservation plan for the Ontario government by the end of 2012.

To aid the public sector with estimating its
carbon footprint, the ECO also believes the
greenhouse gas emissions factors for Ontario’s
electricity generation should be made available
on an hourly basis. This promotes electricity use
when demand is lower, thereby avoiding
construction and use of fossil-fueled peaking power plants.

The ECO recommends that the Independent
Electricity System Operator make publicly
available the estimated greenhouse gas emissions
factors for Ontario’s electricity consumption on an hourly basis.

– 30 –

Download the report Restoring Balance, A Review
of the First Three Years of the Green Energy Act:
Annual Energy Conservation Progress Report 2011 (Volume One) at

For more information and interviews, contact:
Maria Leung
Communications and Outreach Coordinator
Environmental Commissioner of Ontario

For French language release and bilingual
support, please contact Jean-Marc Filion, 705-476-9665.

The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario is
appointed by the Legislative Assembly to be the
province’s independent environmental watchdog,
and report publicly on the government’s environmental decision-making.

Aussi disponible en français.


Gord Miller, Environmental Commissioner of Ontario
Annual Energy Conservation Progress Report – 2011 (Volume One)

Legislative Media Studio, Queen’s Park
10:00 a.m., Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Check Against Delivery

Today I am tabling the first volume of my annual
energy conservation progress report with the
Speaker. It is entitled "Restoring Balance"
because it is a review of the first three years
of the implementation of the Green Energy Act and
I have observed that government policy activity
and public discussion have not been balanced with
respect to the "two equally important thrusts"
promised in the government’s original news
release. We all know that the Green Energy Act
was about facilitating renewable energy projects,
but there has been little attention given to the
other objective of "fostering a culture of
conservation by assisting homeowners, government,
schools and industrial employers to transition to
lower energy use." So in the interest of
restoring balance this report focuses on the
government’s progress in cultivating that culture of conservation.

I have looked at four major energy conservation
commitments that the government made in that
announcement 3 years ago and today I am giving my
assessment of how well they have done in meeting
those commitments. There is some good news. The
government promised to make energy efficiency a
central tenet of Ontario’s Building Code and I
think they have done the job. The Code has been
improved substantially with respect to energy
efficiency and we currently await further quite
aggressive Code improvements which have been
proposed and submitted to public comment. There
have been some lost opportunities because of the
five-year review cycle presently followed for the
code. Fluctuating energy costs as well as rapid
changes in technology and construction practices
argue strongly for a faster review and
implementation cycle and so I have recommended that MMAH look at that.

There was also a promise to green Ontario
government and broader public sector buildings.
And, with some exceptions, they have made
considerable progress in this regard. They have
the broader public sector measuring, planning and
reporting on their energy consumption. There are
no targets or provincial benchmarks for energy
consumption in public buildings set yet, but as
data is collected I expect these will be created.
This will help operators of all public buildings
learn from the actions of the best energy
performers, and raise their game to similar
levels of efficiency. The monitoring needs to be
expanded to include other energy consumption like
transportation fleets. And so I have recommended
that the public sector be able to voluntarily
report this information and that later it be made
mandatory. An odd anomaly in this GEA promise is
that while the government requires the broader
public sector to publicly report on energy
consumption of buildings, it has yet to require
ministries to publicly report on the energy
consumption of its own buildings, something I recommend they correct.

Another commitment in the Green Energy Act was to
raise the minimum standards for energy efficiency
of household appliances to the levels of the
ENERGY STAR product labelling. Basically that
would mean that Ontarians would only be able to
buy dishwashers and clothes washers and such that
were high efficiency. It was a good idea and not
a great imposition for consumers because in most
cases, ENERGY STAR appliances were being chosen
by a majority of purchasers anyway. But the ball
was dropped and it didn’t happen and now instead
of leading the pack, Ontario is a follower in appliance efficiency standards.

But the big disappointment for Ontarians with
respect to both saving energy and consumer
protection was the failure of the government to
meet its commitment to implement mandatory home
energy audits prior to the sale of homes. The
appropriate language was put in the legislation
but it has never been proclaimed into law. This
is important legislation and I don’t understand
why they have failed to implement it. We don’t
buy a refrigerator without knowing how much
energy it consumes. We don’t buy a new car
without knowing its fuel consumption. Young
people are already stretching their financial
capacity to the limit in order to buy a home. Why
do we expose them to unknown risks with respect
to energy costs? Regular people don’t have the
expertise to look at a house and assess its
energy efficiency. That’s why jurisdictions in
Europe, the U.S. and Australia have put in place
various kinds of mandatory energy use disclosure
policies on real estate. By bringing this
information into the light, we protect consumers
and help place a market value on energy
efficiency, which will hopefully drive additional
conservation actions. If the Government wants to
foster a culture of conservation in our society,
making people conscious of the energy consumption
of our homes is an essential first step. We need
mandatory home energy efficiency disclosure in Ontario as promised.

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[image: Inline image 1]

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