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June 01, 2011

The Other Half of the Green Energy Equation: Energy Conservation and Energy Efficiency

In a world increasingly concerned with energy, the focus is often on thesource of energy. Discussions on energy are often framed by a debate about whether we should continue to use fossil fuels or move to renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar. The other half of the energy equation – conservation and improved efficiency – is frequently forgotten in these debates.

This is unfortunate. Decreasing energy consumption can have a large impact on our dependence on fossil fuels and can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. The concept is fairly simple – improve energy efficiency, reduce energy consumption, reduce energy production.

Despite the lack of public enthusiasm for energy efficiency, the Ontario government has recognized its importance. The Green Energy and Green Economy Act (GEGEA) was enacted in May 2009. The GEGEA created the Green Energy Act1 and amended 16 existing statutes. While much of the public debate around the GEGEA centered on its promotion of renewable energy generation, the GEGEA actually has two major components. One component was the greatly publicized energy generation provisions. The other component addressed energy conservation.

We often think of improving energy efficiency in terms of household use of electricity, e.g., purchasing appliances, such as refrigerators or air conditioners, that use less electricity to perform their functions. We may also think of improving energy efficiency in larger industrial settings, such as manufacturing facilities. Until recently, however, the energy efficiency of water and wastewater treatment has not been widely discussed.

Water and wastewater treatment are large consumers of energy. A recent study on the link between water and energy found that the amount of energy used each year by water-related services, including pumping, was equivalent to the energy required to heat every home in Canada.2

The Green Energy Act created under the GEGEA has been created to address energy conservation and efficiency in residential, industrial, commercial and governmental contexts. The Green Energy Act allows regulations to be made for the purpose of promoting energy conservation This is achieved by designating goods, services and technologies in a way that will promote energy conservation. Once goods, services or technologies are designated in regulations, those items can be used despite any laws, by-laws, encumbrances or agreements that otherwise prevent or restrict their use.3

Regulations have been created under this provision of the Green Energy Act. To date, however, the only goods, services or technologies designated are clotheslines, clothestrees, and any goods and technologies that have the same purpose as a clothesline or clothestree.4

The Green Energy Act has further provisions that prevent the sale of appliances or products that do not meet prescribed efficiency standards. All appliances and products must have a label that confirms compliance with the efficiency standards.5 Here again, regulations specify the appliances and products that are required to meet the efficiency standards. To date, these are primarily household items such as lamps, lights, refrigerators, heaters, air conditions and water source heat pumps.6

At a larger scale, regulations can be made under the Green Energy Act requiring public agencies to consider energy conservation and energy efficiency when purchasing goods and services or making capital investments. This could affect municipalities operating water or wastewater treatment facilities. When installing, updating, or repairing these facilities, municipalities may be required to consider the installation of energy efficient components, such as pumps, or the creation of entire facilities that are energy efficient. At this time, there are no regulations requiring public agencies to consider energy conservation and energy efficiency.7

Last, the Green Energy Act allows for regulations requiring public agencies and prescribed sectors to prepare energy conservation and demand management plans. These plans could require agencies and sectors to meet energy and environmental standards.8 The Ministry of Energy has released Directives on Conservation relating to these plans, and setting out programs to be run by the Ontario Power Authority and local distribution companies. Efficiency programs include the fridge and freezer pickup, the heating and cooling incentive, and the helping homes conserve program, which focuses on providing water efficient products including showerheads and faucet aerators.9

Given the large amount of energy used by water and wastewater treatment facilities, the high cost of using energy for these facilities, and the potential to decrease energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, water and wastewater treatment facilities would be an ideal candidate for energy reduction under these provisions. The Ontario Power Authority and local distribution companies are already taking steps to create programs for industrial facilities in 2011. Programs are being put in place to provide rebates for installing energy efficient lighting, improving the function of air conditioners and improving the energy efficiency of chilled water plants. There are also programs that will provide funding to perform energy audits on industrial facilities.10

The newly-enacted Water Opportunities and Water Conservation Act, 2010 has added to the efficiency measures introduced in the GEGEA. By amending the Ontario Water Resources Act, the Water Opportunities and Water Conservation Act, 2010 has included water efficiency requirements for appliance and products similar to those contained in the Green Energy Act.11 Improving water efficiency can reduce energy consumption. If less water is used or required, then less water will need to be treated and pumped through various processes and to end users. For example, the City of Toronto has identified that the electricity required to treat water for the city could be reduced by 550 million kWh annually by increasing water efficiency.12

The Water Opportunities and Water Conservation Act, 2010 has also created the Water Opportunities Act.13 The Water Opportunities Act gives the Ministry of the Environment the power to require municipal water sustainability plans. The plans will have to be prepared by municipalities and other regulated entities for all water, wastewater and stormwater services.14 The content of the plans will be set by regulations, but plans will likely be required to include an asset management plan for the physical infrastructure, a water conservation plan, and a strategy to consider technologies, services and practices that promote water efficiency.15 The Ministry of the Environment can also require municipalities to achieve performance targets.16

The Water Opportunities Act also allows for regulations requiring public agencies, including municipalities to prepare water conservation plans. These plans could require public agencies to meet water conservation targets and comply with other prescribed environmental standards, such as energy efficiency. The Water Opportunities Act also allows for the co-ordination of water conservation plans with energy conservation and demand management plans under the Green Energy Act.17

The use of provisions under the Green Energy Act, the Water Opportunities Act and the Ontario Water Resources Act will have an important impact for water and wastewater treatment facilities. If provisions under the Green Energy Act are applied to water and wastewater treatment facilities, these facilities will become accountable for the amount of energy consumed. By examining the treatment process, including the type and design of pumps, facility operators can greatly reduce energy use.

Similarly, water sustainability plans and water conservation plans will require municipalities and other entities to ensure that water and wastewater services are water efficient. In addition, regulations that create standards for water efficient products will decrease water consumption and, as a result, decrease energy used by water and wastewater treatment facilities. These regulations will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, decrease electricity use and open funds to be used for other endeavours – something that is particularly important for many of Ontario’s financially stressed municipalities.

End notes 
1 S.O. 2009, c. 12. 
2 C.. Maas, Ontario’s Water-Energy Nexus: Will We Find Ourselves in Hot Water or Tap into Opportunity? POLIS Project on Ecological Governance (University of Victoria: 2010). 
3 Green Energy Act, s. 4. 
4 O. Reg. 97/08. 
5 Green Energy Act, s. 15. 
6 O. Reg. 82/95, Schedule. 
7 Green Energy Act, s. 8. 
8 Green Energy Act, s. 6. 
9 See the Ministry of Energy’s Searchable Incentives Guide for all programs currently available. View Online 
10 See the Ministry of Energy’s Searchable Incentives Guide for all programs currently available. View Online 
11 Ontario Water Resources Act, R.S.P. 1990, c. O. 40, at s. 34.12. 
12 City of Toronto, Staff Report: Climate Change, Clean Air and Sustainable Energy Action Plan: Moving from Framework to Action (June 2007). 
13 S.O. 2010, c. 19 [WAO]. 
14 WAO s. 24-25. 
15 WAO s. 26. 
16 WAO s. 29. 
17 WAO s. 36-37.

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