July 27, 2012
Fourth in a series on the ‘Now or Never” report of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources (ENEV).
Priority 4 is easy for everyone to be part of because it encourages consumers to conserve and use energy efficiently.
So I’m going keep it simple.
Energy conservation plays a big role in our every day life, or at least it should. As stated in the ENEV report ‘Canadians are amongst the largest per capita energy consumers in the world.’ Obviously, this is not an achievement we should be trying to aspire to. This makes it extra important for Canadians to be vigilant about energy conservation. Energy conservation in itself can be considered a source of energy, and making sure to take simple everyday steps towards using less will go a long way to doing your part in helping build our sustainable energy future.
I’m also going to take it easy on you for today’s lesson as the past three days have been pretty intense. Energy conservation and efficiency is an issue that we as consumers have a lot of control over. I’ll just end by saying don’t take that control for granted, and make sure that you are doing your best to be informed and – better yet – active about energy conservation.
July 9, 2012
Saving fuel doesn’t always require a complex solution. Sometimes simplicity is the key. This is definitely the case with ScotRail’s fuel saving technique. Their secret? Coasting.
Simple as that, just putting the train into neutral and coasting on certain sections of railway. This solution has saved the company around one million pounds, and they are looking to find more coasting routes.
It’s inspiring to know that there are easy solutions out there. Energy conservation often gets overcomplicated to a frustrating degree, and it is comforting to see a story like this.
You can check out the full BBC video here.
March 7, 2011
The Department of Energy and Climate Change in the UK is challenging you to solve the problem of reducing the country’s CO2 emissions by 20 per cent of 1990 levels by the year 2050.
The data behind the 2050 simulation is based on actual UK data. You read along and learn about how the country uses energy and then decide how you see its future. The program quantifies your ideas and prompts further questions about the impact of your choices.
When you are done you get a snap shot of what your world looks like – again nicely quantified and easy to understand – including geography references, scale and scope of development that would be required, nod to efficiencies realized and a literal count of things like wind turbines and nuclear power plants that would be required. You can return to your musing and try again or submit the results.
But what we really like about this sim is that it’s the foundation for the Pathway Debate. Eight climate and energy experts have set out how they think the UK could meet the target using the 2050 tool. Brilliant. This is one of the best online tools we’ve seen recently to help consumers understand the relationship between supply and demand. It’s about the energy mix and how all of the sources work together to power the future. So hop to it and take a spin or should we say a sim.
Really, everyone these days is an energy armchair critic, picking winners and losers and thinking they have a better idea. Now it’s your turn. You decide. And you just might learn something in the process.
February 8, 2011
A recurring theme at the recently held fourth World Future Energy Summit (WFES) was that the transformation to a clean energy future requires a new way of thinking. That new way of thinking was best described by Lord Nicholas Stern, Chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, London School of Economics. “In order that climate change targets can be achieved, we face the need for a new industrial revolution. That industrial revolution needs policy change as a driver to reach the scale of change required. With fundamentally strong policy, we can also increase the pace of that change.”
One such policy shift described at the summit is government fuel subsidies. “Government subsidies of energy fuels leads to inefficiencies and waste through artificially high use,” said Dr. Fatih Birol, Chief Economist of International Energy Agency. “Coupled with the current gas glut this poses a real threat to future investment in renewables.”
Another policy shift is to refocus sustainable infrastructure development from established economies to emerging economies. “Developing countries offer a ‘clean sheet’ for renewable technologies as they often do not have the old technologies and infrastructure that developed economies have”, said Rene Umlauft, CEO Renewable Energy, Siemens, Germany. “This means that they can ‘leapfrog’ the problems that developed countries have in replacing old energy systems, making them a key investment market.”
Closer to Home
But policy shifts that drive green energy and sustainability are more than just ideas voiced at environmental summits. Closer to home, the Ontario government’s policies are the drivers of change.
In 2007, the Ontario Power Authority developed a 20-year energy policy that focused on “creating a sustainable energy supply, targeted to improving current natural gas and renewable assets at a sustainable and realistic cost.” That plan included the very successful Feed-in-Tariff program wherein small energy producers using renewable energy sources were paid for surplus power supplied to the grid.
In 2009, the Ontario government introduced its Green Energy and Green Economy Act and its Long-Term Energy Plan (660KB PDF) as an update of the 2007 plan.
During the 1990s, five coal-fired plants, all operated by Ontario Power Generation (OPG), supplied up to 25 per cent of Ontario’s electricity. With the Long-Term Plan, all coal-fired units will be phased out by December 31, 2014. In doing so, Ontario will become the first jurisdiction in North America to eliminate coal-fired generation.
Closing coal plants actually started in 2005 when OPG decommissioned the Lakeshore generating station in Mississauga, Ontario. In 2010, it shut down two units at Nanticoke and two at Lambton generating station. Two more units at Nanticoke are scheduled to be shut down in 2011. Nanticoke was the largest coal-fired generating station in North America and the largest single emitter of greenhouse gases in Canada.
To make up for lost generating capacity, the single unit at the Atikokan plant in northern Ontario is being converted to burn biomass consisting of wood pellets and agricultural by-products. Two of the three units at Thunder Bay will be converted to natural gas. As well, units at Nanticoke and Lambton may be converted to burn gas or biomass.
Ontario expects that nuclear power will continue to provide up to 50 per cent of its electricity. This may call for refurbishment and modernization of units at the Darlington, Pickering and Bruce nuclear generating stations as well as the addition of two to four new reactors at Darlington.
The province will add capacity through upgrades to, and new construction of, hydropower facilities, wind farms and solar parks. Ontario already leads the country in wind and solar capacity.
Existing Feed-in-Tariff programs, which initially included biomass, biogas, landfill gas, wind, solar and small hydro, will be expanded to include small combined heat and power projects.
While policy is driving change in Ontario, it may not be the only driver. The first Industrial Revolution was driven by innovation and technology that allowed mass production. Similarly, recent advances have contributed to the economic viability of renewable resources such as wind power and solar photovoltaic energy and to the more efficient use of conventional fuels in new technologies such as combined cycle gas turbines. Without these advances, implementing policy change might be prohibitively expensive.
|Held in Abu Dhabi and hosted by Masdar, an Abu Dhabi based renewable energy and sustainable technology organization, the WFES is an annual event that promotes innovation and investment opportunities surrounding renewable energy and the environment. This year’s meeting was attended by more than 26,000 visitors from 137 countries. Delegates included political leaders, international policy makers, industry experts, investors,and academics.|
December 8, 2010
Image BC Hydro
Across the country, energy efficiency measures are some of the most concrete ways we have of using our energy better. Prince Edward Island, for example, has an entire office devoted to energy efficiency, and Ontario’s smart metering program has already installed 4.1 million smart meters in homes, with an ultimate goal of 4.4 million. Efficiency is important, and that’s why BC Hydro recently recognized 26 individuals and businesses through its Power Smart Excellence Awards, praising their leading roles in energy conservation.
The 14 awards include categories like the Power Smart Leaders, awarded to “customers that continuously demonstrate a best-in-class approach to strategic energy management and an ongoing commitment to energy conservation in BC.” This year, the award was given to both Simon Fraser University and Sinclar Group Forest Products. Other categories include “New Technology,” awarded to companies that develop innovative conservation technology, and “Sustainable Communities,” recognizing local governments and developers whose actions have included entire communities. Eleven organizations earned BC Hydro’s “Leadership Excellence” designation, given to organizations that have already earned been recognized as Power Smart Leaders.
BC Hydro’s customers account for about two thirds of the energy consumed in the province. According to BC’s provincial energy minister, Bill Bennett, “we are counting on their commitment as we work together toward achieving our provincial target of meeting 66 per cent of the province’s future electricity needs through conservation by 2020.”
This is the eighth year for the program, which will now promote its winners through a province-wide online and print advertising campaign. The hope is that the winners will encourage British Columbians across the province to change the way they use energy, just as organizations across the country are trying to reach Canadians.
- Power Smart Leaders: Simon Fraser University and Sinclar Group Forest Products Ltd.
- Leadership Excellence:
- Abbotsford School District (34)
- Canadian Autoparts Toyota Inc.
- City of Richmond
- Hudson’s Bay Company
- Kwantlen Polytechnic University
- Molson Coors Canada
- Overwaitea Food Group
- The University of British Columbia
- Vancouver Coastal Health Authority
- Vancouver Airport Authority
- Workplace Conservation Leadership: City of Dawson Creek
- Larry Bell Award: Dr. John Robinson
- Energy Conservation Commitment: Canadian Tire Corporation
- Energy Manager: Fraser Health Authority
- Sustainable Communities: Millennium Development Corporation and the City of Vancouver
- New Construction: Encana Corporation
- New Technology: Taseko Mines Limited
- Conservation Partner: BC Food Processors Association
- Consumer Product Manufacturer: Philips Lighting
- Residential Builder/Developer: Glacier Creek Pacific Contracting Ltd.
- Lighting Retailer: The Home Depot
- Appliance Retailer: Sears Canada Inc.
- Electronics Retailer: Best Buy Canada
April 8, 2010
The Act is envisioned as a vehicle to make Ontario “the North American leader in the development and sale of new technologies and services for water conservation and treatment.”
Generally speaking, when government comes out with a new program related to conservation and the environment, stakeholder groups are quick to lament that the program doesn’t go far enough or that it completely fails to address the problem. However, this time water conservation groups were generally positive. In a media release, Great Lakes United even suggested some strategies the Ontario Government may wish to pursue, one of which was to launch an efficiency labelling program for water fixtures.
However, a quick visit to the Web would indicate that such standards are already in place. Natural Resources Canada’s water conservation Web page suggests that low-flow showerheads are those that deliver less than 9.5 litres per minute compared to older models that use 14 litres per minute. Similarly, low-flow toilets use six litres per flush or less.
These may not be hard and fast definitions, similar to the Energy Star® program wherein products must meet certain energy use and efficiency criteria before they can display the Energy Star® symbol. However, if they aren’t hard and fast, then establishing such a program would be in the best interests of water conservation.
March 30, 2010
Buying stuff now provides a triple benefit: you own something new, you help the economy recover and you save the planet. Not bad for an afternoon at the mall. AIR MILES® has announced the formation of a new division, AIR MILES for Social Change, designed “to help organizations more effectively inspire socially responsible lifestyle choices among Canadians by harnessing the power of reward miles.”
AIR MILES for Social Change is partnering with government agencies, energy utilities, transit service providers, and non-governmental organizations. According to the news release, these partnerships “leverage the value of AIR MILES reward miles and the program’s reach into more than 10 million Canadian households to create incentives for energy conservation, public transit, waste reduction and other sustainable choices to shift the attitudes and behaviours of Canadians in favour of healthy living and the environment.”
Details about the new program are scant, but “an innovative energy conservation relationship with the Ontario Power Authority is set to be announced in April, 2010. This joint program will help engage Ontarians to take simple conservation actions that will have lasting financial rewards and help fight climate change.”
October 5, 2009
Home owners in Ontario and Saskatchewan are thanking their lucky stars.
Just like your kitchen appliances, houses can be given the coveted Energy Star designation, too. By meeting a list of requirements, licensed Energy Star builders, like EnerQuality in Ontario, can put the famous blue star logo on their projects.
In this pilot project, to achieve Energy Star rating homes must be at least 30% more energy-efficient than provincial building code requirements. That translates to huge savings in home energy use and cost – by keeping an eye on efficiency during construction.
The McGill family in Ontario reports paying much less for their monthly bills in their new Energy Star home than their previous one – which was 1,000 square feet smaller. They even say their health is better, which they attribute to their higher-efficiency air filter.
Sounds fantastic, but is it actually done? By bits and pieces. Tankless water heaters, Energy Star-rated windows and doors, proper insulation – among other things. They also install low-flush toilets, and low-flow showerheads to keep water usage down.
Recently, EnerQuality Homes upped the ante by creating the Greenhouse initiative. You might consider it a “hybrid” between Energy Star and LEED status. Greenhouse aims to conserve energy as well as materials. EnerQuality president Corey McBurney says most houses are “overbuilt.”
“Greenhouses” will take advantage of optimal-value engineering; they use recycled products, and reduce the amount of lumber used to make houses.
With such cost-effective, energy efficient programs available, it’s no wonder homeowners are looking so starry-eyed.
September 3, 2009
Microsoft would like you to become more energy efficient – and they would like to get you there. A brand new, and free, trial application called Microsoft Hohm allows users to monitor and understand how they are using energy in their homes. It will also make suggestions on how users can cut consumption, manage their energy – and save money.
Hohm prepares a personalized energy report, with personalized recommendations. It asks why, when, and how much energy you use, and determine where energy can be cut back, and where home improvements can be made. It also reveals your total annual energy costs; helpful graphs and pie charts make the results easier to understand.
The website is filled with tips on how homeowners can reduce energy and money wastage. There is also a community for Holm members who can support each other, give each other suggestions, feedback, and words of advice.
Microsoft has partnered with four west coast utilities for the project: Puget Sound Energy, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Seattle City Light and Xcel Energy. Customers of these utilities will have a more in-depth energy report.
If the name Hohm conjures images of yogic meditation, you might be on the wrong track; the developer of the software says the unusual spelling is a pun; the electrical unit of resistance is Ohm.
However, one might argue that the software’s purpose is to live in greater harmony; something with rather “Omm”-like qualities.
July 22, 2009
Summer is officially here!
Summer means warmer days and evenings, more daylight, and afternoons on the patio. It also means energy use patterns change, and with it, strategies to use less and conserve should change too.
Natural Resources Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency has released its conservation TIPS for the summer, and there’s loads of good and useful suggestions in there. One major area for Canadians to consider is their summer appliances. Do they need to be gas-powered?
Your mower, trimmer(s), leaf blower, and others consume a lot of fuel and produce significant amounts of carbon dioxide. Electric mowers and trimmers work equally well while consuming proportionately much less energy.
Even better are manual versions. Do you really need a high-octane blower when your broom is right there? And there’s the added benefit of being whisper-quiet. You know how your neighbour’s dog drives you crazy, barking to be let in, then out, and over again? Same idea.
Canadians can also reduce the energy consumed by their indoor appliances. First of all, why are you using your oven so much in the summer, anyway? In winter, sure, a pot of chili hits the spot – but during a heat wave? Cool down with cool foods.
If you do use your oven, make sure the range fan is turned on (which many forget), which doesn’t just keep smells in the kitchen. It effectively vents excess heat from your kitchen to outside, where it doesn’t stifle, and you’re less likely to turn on the A/C.
By switching a few energy habits into summer-mode, you can beat the heat and the energy bills!