When it comes to energy-saving policies, British Columbia is first, Saskatchewan is last, Prince Edward Island (P.E.I) is most improved, and the federal government needs to help all provinces ramp up to meet national goals, according to the second annual Scorecard of provincial energy efficiency policies by Efficiency Canada, a Carleton-based research organization.
The 250-page report benchmarks Canadian provinces across 42 separate metrics, such as energy savings from public utility programs, electric vehicle registrations, building code adoption, and industrial energy management.
Energy efficiency has become a go-to solution to recover from COVID-19’s social and economic impacts in a way that promotes clean energy and long-term resilience. This year, the federal government committed to improving average energy intensity by three per cent per year, which is a tripling from current levels. Organizations such as the International Energy Agency and Canada’s Task Force for a Resilient Recovery recommend investing in building retrofits because they create jobs, promote spending in local economies, and spur productive local investments.
“Most energy saving policies are implemented by the provinces because they control areas such as public utility regulation and building codes. The Scorecard tracks provincial performance and policy initiatives, while aiming to spur healthy competition amongst policymakers,” said James Gaede, the report’s lead author.
The Scorecard gave the top rank to British Columbia for the second year. The province is ahead in net-zero energy-ready building codes, electric vehicle registrations, industrial energy management systems, and low-carbon heating.
P.E.I. was the most improved province, and narrowly took the lead away from Nova Scotia in the report’s assessment of energy efficiency programs. P.E.I. is now top in per capita program spending, with a strong emphasis on low-income and Indigenous communities.
Québec is second place and leads in the transportation category. This year, the province made its first update to energy efficiency standards for large buildings since 1983.
Saskatchewan is in last place, lagging in energy efficiency program savings and spending.
Alberta and Ontario both saw a significant drop in scores compared to the previous year. Alberta significantly reduced program savings and totally shut down the Energy Efficiency Alberta agency. Ontario is a traditional leader and ranks fourth overall, yet is slipping in areas such as electricity savings and electric vehicle registrations.
“The reduction in program budgets and savings in Ontario and Alberta have a significant national impact. If these trends continue, national efficiency and emission reduction goals could be out of reach,” said Gaede.
All provinces have significant room to improve. On a scale with 100 available points, the highest score this year is 58 and the lowest 17.
Making federalism work for energy efficiency
The report authors see the federal government playing an important role in bolstering provincial energy efficiency performance, identifying the following five federal policy priorities:
- using the low-carbon economy fund to expand energy efficiency programs as an immediate job creation strategy;
- financing deeper energy retrofits;
- introducing a national zero-emission vehicle mandate;
- spurring the adoption of the 2020 national model buildings codes; and
- promoting industrial energy management systems.
They note that energy efficiency is a policy area that should unite all provinces rather than create regional conflicts.