Federal Budget Must Scale Up Energy Efficiency, Signal Long-Term Commitment, Analysts Urge
After Canadians voted for strong climate action in last fall’s federal election, and all the political parties represented in Parliament included energy efficiency in their platforms, the upcoming federal budget is an essential opportunity to slash pollution, create jobs, and make everyone’s lives more comfortable, Efficiency Canada argues in a recent opinion piece.
Buildings account for 22% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, Policy Director Brendan Haley and Senior Research Associate James Gaede write for Policy Options. And “specific energy retrofit commitments—such as free energy audits, interest-free loans, and mobilizing private capital to pursue deep retrofits of office towers—are featured in the mandate letters to federal ministers.”
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So now, “a massive scale-up of energy retrofits is needed to meet the government’s commitment to achieve a net-zero emissions future by 2050,” they add. “The specific policies noted in the mandate letters must be supported in the upcoming budget, so we can get started.”
Haley and Gaede also urge the Trudeau government to “clearly signal that these policies are part of a long-term agenda to completely decarbonize the building stock, and to effectively implement this agenda by leveraging the wider network of utilities, municipalities, and private sector players that is working on upgrading our buildings.”
The op ed calls for innovative strategies to “dramatically expand the number of deep retrofits” in the existing building stock, moving “from incremental, one-by-one projects toward a systemized approach that is able to achieve economies of scale. In the process, our markets will be transformed so the most efficient products and designs—the ones that maximize our comfort and save us the most energy—become the norm, rather than the exception.”
The EU has already set a 2050 deadline to decarbonize the building stock, they add, while U.S. legislators are considering a $35-billion National Climate Bank to finance energy retrofits and other projects.
“The good news is that the federal government does not have to reach this goal alone,” Haley and Gaede write, with a network of private sector partners, utilities, municipal and provincial regulators, and government agencies already onboard. And with more than 436,000 Canadians currently employed in the wider energy efficiency sector, “leveraging and expanding this work force will create green, low-carbon jobs in communities across Canada.”
But “given the enormity of the task ahead of us, we need to get going now,” they stress. The opinion piece calls on Ottawa to develop “a comprehensive mix of policies and programs that will enable the people working to enhance energy efficiency to remove the unique barriers confronted in different regions, types of buildings, and end users. If we effectively mobilize and coordinate the entire energy efficiency policy system, Canadians will see easy-to-access and substantial energy savings opportunities.”