Canada must be a world leader in energy efficiency, not just energy production

Let’s be clear — Canada can maintain economic prosperity, while driving down its greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to global warming. 

As a company involved for 25 years in energy management, I know this to be true. So does the Business Council of Canada.

The Council’s Task Force on Canada’s Economic Future recently released its study, “A Better Future for Canadians”.  Earlier this year, I participated in the Council Roundtable consultations.  The report identified priority recommendations and rationale for the incoming Federal government. If implemented, the policies would lead to a better future for our country.  

360 Energy is about helping companies reduce energy consumption and control energy costs.  We have an “on-the-ground” knowledge of energy and power sectors across Canada and North America, from the customers’ perspective rather than the producers.  

The Council suggests that, as a strategy cornerstone, Canadian companies become top quartile performers in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions and energy efficiency improvements, compared to our international peers. It rightly points out, achieving such a target would improve Canada’s productivity, and bolster a case for international investment in key resource and other industries. 

I strongly agree with the Business Council of Canada: we should become top quartile performers in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions and energy efficiency improvements.  The only problem with the statement is businesses do not know what this means as it relates to them and what steps they can take to achieve this.

Canada is rich in resources. Energy is among our greatest strengths. By focusing on continually improving energy performance, we will prove to ourselves and the world that we can simultaneously lead on energy and climate action.

Our firm’s research indicates Canadian manufacturers could save as much as $3B per year for five consecutive years — or ~$15B — by implementing simple energy management principles, accountabilities and controls.  This represents only 5% per year of the energy consumed by Canadian manufacturers. Added up over 5 years, that’s a 25% reduction, all without costly technological upgrades.

2017 Fuel Usage – Total Industrial, Agricultural, Commercial and Institutional by Type
Fuel TypeFuel AmountEstimated Consumer Cost
Natural Gas & NGL2,152,255 TJ$12.9 billion
Electricity321,148 GWh$32.1 billion
Refined Petroleum Products15,760 ML$15.8 billion
Total $60.8 billion
Estimated 5% savings (annual) $3.04 billion
Data from Table 1-1 and Table 2-1 from Statistics Canada’s 2017 Report on Energy Supply and Demand in Canada

When converted to GHG emissions, those energy reductions amount to 9.9 Megatons per year for five consecutive years (or 49Mts). This means Canada would meet 25 percent of its climate target reduction of 200MTs.

It’s clear why the Business Council of Canada identified action on energy and GHG emission reduction as a top economy-wide priority, requiring the urgent attention of our companies and government. 

Still, in my experience, too many Canadian companies have limited energy knowledge. Few have GHG emission and energy management performance strategies. Simply put, there’s a big upside in energy reductions with lots of quick wins for thousands of companies of all sizes across the country.

As a whole, Canada has an abundance of energy resources and fresh water.  However, with great abundance can also come waste, inaction, and inefficiency.  

Complacency at all levels is one of Canada’s biggest energy and GHG reduction challenges. 

Too many government and business leaders: 

  • Don’t believe energy is actually a controllable cost;
  • Don’t understand energy markets and supply options;
  • Don’t have access to high quality and timely utilities data, therefore making energy difficult to track and analyze;
  • Have grown co-dependent on ‘quick-fix’ grants to subsidize technology purchases;
  • Believe technology is the only solution to reduce energy use, when it should be the last step;
  • Think energy efficiency is solely an engineering problem.

Indeed, most government energy and GHG emission reduction programs focus on technology to reduce consumption. They overlook business improvements from training, accountability, reporting and awareness-raising. Developing processes to track and report energy usage, costs and GHG’s, along with employee training, allows for continuous improvement in controlling and reducing energy use. 

This is the single, and biggest overlooked opportunity to reduce Canada’s carbon footprint and energy consumption.  

I commend the Business Council of Canada for giving us an ambitious target, where we can lead the world in energy efficiency and GHG emission reductions. Their call for a national-resources and-climate strategy is sorely needed and timely. Our companies should be in the top quartile in energy efficiency and GHG reduction.

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