Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Energy Efficiency is not Going to Curb Soaring Electricity Demand

Encouraging people to cut back on air conditioningto and buy energy-efficient lightbulbs is not going to curb Canada's soaring energy consumption.

Government efforts to promote conservation could cut energy demand by only about 10 % by 2025 compared with business as usual. That is far less than projected by environmentalists who see energy efficiency as a key strategy for cutting greenhouse emissions and smog.

The study does not include aggressive measures and may reflect the spin of industries committed to using fossil fuels.

The study explores some of the potential for energy efficiency in Canada, but should not be taken as the last word on energy efficiency potential.

The study is based on measures considered to be politically feasible, but admitted they do not include such proposals as charging the true cost of electricity.

There's almost no province in Canada where consumers actually see the true cost of electricity - and it's something that my association advocates, but politically it's very, very hard.

If governments were to take all the measures that are technically possible the savings could be 50 %. But those measures would be highly unpopular.

It's tough, isn't it? You're saying to consumers, 'Look, you're going to be facing not only the energy price increases that you've seen in the last little while but you're going to see more, and you're going to see more because we made it go that way.'

The easiest steps to promote energy efficiency have already been taken.

This includes, for example, the penetration of higher efficiency appliances, motors and lighting. Unless economic circumstances change considerably the potential that remains will be more difficult to capture.

The Canadian energy consumption increased 22 % between 1990 and 2003, even though there has been a considerable improvement in energy consumption per unit of economic output.

What is happening is that the effects of economic activity, namely the growth of the housing and commercial building stock, larger homes, the market penetration of more energy-using devices, and industrial production growth together offset the effects of energy efficiency improvements.


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