Environmental Commissioner of Ontario reports on energy conservation

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Cover of Managing a Complex Energy System – ResultsThe Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, Gord Miller, recently released his report Managing a Complex Energy System – Results: Annual Energy Conservation Progress Report 2010 (Volume Two). The report is available on ECO's website at http://www.eco.on.ca

Miller delivers a clear message in support of Ontario electricity distribution utilities: "I want to impress upon the new Energy Minister, in light of the actions of the Ontario Energy Board and program delays, that immediate action is required if the electric utilities are to meet the 2014 targets that are a condition of their licence. The alternative is to give them more time.”

A number of other points will be of particular interest to Ontario distributors:
  • Regarding utilities’ 2014 targets: The ECO expresses concern that the utilities will not meet their 2014 electricity conservation targets, due to delays in launching Ontario Power Authority (OPA) province-wide programs and the lack of Board-Approved Programs. He also identifies methodological issues related to measurement of savings, and expresses concern about the lack of transparency in target setting.
  • Regarding OEB decisions: The ECO highlights that the Ontario Energy Board has been unsupportive of customized utility programs and that other recent OEB decisions also suggest a lack of support for conservation. He believes that a legislative amendment is needed to make the OEB more effective in promoting energy conservation, including explicitly considering environmental consequences of energy consumption – as intended by the Green Energy Act.
  • Regarding the Electricity Retrofit Program: According to the report, some potential participants decline to join because they are required to give the OPA ownership of environmental attributes (e.g. reduced greenhouse gas emissions) associated with retrofits. The ECO recommends that the OPA release claims to ownership of environmental attributes arising from conservation projects funded with the aid of OPA incentives.
  • Regarding results: The ECO states that progress towards electricity conservation targets has been respectable, and that natural gas utilities have performed well against their targets. He reports that the performance of the gas utilities’ industrial DSM programs has been exceptional, and is disappointed that the coming years will likely see a decrease in the total amount of utility funding directed at industrial gas conservation.
  • Looking forward: The ECO believes that the value of conservation was often ignored during public debates in 2010, despite the obvious economic, social and environmental benefits. “The government should step up conservation efforts because it saves customers money, reduces environmental damage, and helps avoid new and often unpopular power plants”, says Miller.

Related information

Managing a complex energy system – results
Environmental Commissioner of Ontario website