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CEEA’s Efficiency Matters Blog

Global and local collaboration on energy efficiency are long-term trends

Meetings from Ottawa to Washington point to the urgent need for collaboration to create resilient communities and fight climate change

Spring is the time for regeneration and we have been busy absorbing some of the latest trends on energy efficiency. Among the keywords and themes being used at high level meetings I’ve been privileged to attend: resilient communities, inclusive cities, energy productivity, green infrastructure, inter-governmental cooperation, and most promising — evidence-based policy.

Minister Sohi says the federal government wants practical solutions and evidence-based policy.

At CEEA’s annual luncheon in Ottawa on May 8 we heard from Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities who spoke of how the government is open to practical solutions – something which is advantageous for CEEA members immersed in providing energy efficiency services. Effectively linking infrastructure and energy efficiency, the former city councillor from Edmonton has a clear understanding of how to explain and make infrastructure needs real. He told a personal story from his days as a municipal politician and how better social housing helped get a family onto a better path. Sohi reminded us that personal stories make a difference to policy makers.

Collaborate to fight climate change

Sohi’s primary call during the speech was the need for collaboration to build strong, sustainable inclusive cities – what has to be done is too big to be done alone. Citing the need for better alignment across all sectors and in partnership with all levels of government, industries and communities, Sohi said he has seen positive change come from using that approach as a city councillor. He highlighted his department’s $120 billion investment in infrastructure over the next 10 years to support the government’s broader social inclusion and climate change goals, including: affordable housing, green infrastructure, cultural and recreational infrastructure and more traditional investments such as public transit, roads, bridges and ports. “We see the potential of infrastructure to do more than simply create short-term jobs – we see it as a catalyst to build strong dynamic cities that will power our economy and afford opportunities for all Canadians to succeed,” said Sohi. He is also taking an economical approach – invest in the short term by repairing what exists, while taking the time to design a long term strategy.

Public transit and water are examples of those approaches. In the short term there is almost $574 million to support energy and water efficiency retrofits and renovations to existing social housing – social housing and commercial buildings were of particular interest to him. That will help Canada achieve its climate change goals and will aid families who are struggling to pay their energy bills. That type of investment also helps to create jobs in the energy efficiency sector. As for a long-term strategy Sohi mentioned major transit, as well as water and wastewater projects across Canada which will support improving energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Energy efficiency needs to be part of evidence-based policy development

Focussed on developing and delivering smart, evidence-based policy for infrastructure investments, Sohi emphasized how energy efficiency must be part of the equation, noting “the life-cycle  costs of the projects and the environmental impact when building public infrastructure are top of mind. Energy efficiency is part of the solution. ”

Sohi also shared the spotlight with his colleagues Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources and Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change. He mentioned Carr’s recent updates to energy efficiency regulations to increase minimum energy performance standards for 35 products. And of interest to CEEA in particular, he spoke about McKenna’s launch of an interactive online portal for Canadians to submit their ideas to create a national framework to address climate change. CEEA is currently conducting meetings with officials and we will be drafting a submission for Environment Canada by May 31.

Energy productivity takes over Washington

Immediately after the CEEA luncheon I headed to Washington for the Alliance to Save Energy’s annual EE Global Forum. The main focus was on energy productivity and the role of energy efficiency (see the story in CEEA’s May newsletter), in particular how we need to make those concepts more real for policy makers. Rachel Kyte, CEO of the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All), and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, spoke clearly on the opportunities we will miss if we do not translate effectively what energy efficiency is about. She too noted that to be successful we need to tell personal stories so policy makers, and the public, can see the effects of climate change and understand it goes beyond just science.

Global energy efficiency is on everyone’s agenda

The forum exuded an air of confidence in energy efficiency globally that I hadn’t seen before. Politicians — Republicans, Democrats, Senators, and reps from the World Bank, UN NGOs, the IEA, and EU were on hand. The effectiveness of renewables and energy efficiency working together was one theme that is becoming more apparent. And it was great to see companies like Johnson Controls and Philips Lighting making huge commitments to increase their energy productivity to the World Bank as part of The Climate Group’s EP100.

At the panel I was moderating on how we design and construct energy-efficient, resilient and climate adaptive buildings, one of the biggest questions was whether we were designing programs for the real people who live in those buildings. To answer that the program design needs to create technical solutions that consider such game changers as the influence of millennials and to better understand how people actually use buildings.

We have a lot of work ahead of us. And we look forward to sharing our climate change submission at the end of the month.

Posted May 26, 2016

Elizabeth McDonald is president of CEEA