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CEEA’s Efficiency Matters Blog

How to sell energy efficiency to a government with limited resources

With 28 meetings and 37 participants CEEA makes the case for investing in energy efficiency in Ottawa

Eight teams began taking their energy efficiency messages to decision-makers on November 18 at 9:30 am for CEEA’s Energy Efficiency Matters on the Hill. See Highlights for photos and who we met.

Budgets are tight. An election is looming. And everyone is trying to figure out what to do with the little, and sometimes big, piece of pie they have. So many causes, industries and sectors are competing for increasingly smaller resources, what can we do to get energy efficiency heard by the bureaucrats and politicians that matter?

We need hard-hitting numbers and compelling stories about energy efficiency. Armed with our own surveys and the recent Acadia Center report on the macroeconomic benefits of energy efficiency, we were more than prepared for our advocacy day Efficiency Matters on the Hill on November 18. But while we were prepared, we now have a lot of homework, more on that later.

The faces of energy efficiency in Ottawa

We set out for the day with representatives from an industry cross-section including energy services (Ecosystem, Opower, Thermal Energy International), insulation (NAIMA Canada, TIAC, Knauf Insulation, Roxul), construction (MCAC, BOMA Canada) and LDCs (Enbridge, Union Gas, Efficiency Nova Scotia), among others. Meetings were equally diverse — the Prime Minister’s Office, Natural Resources Canada, the Office of Energy Efficiency, the US Embassy, the Council of Chief Executives, Environment Canada, Public Works, Finance Canada, Sustainable Development Technology Canada, Department of National Defence (DND) and Industry Canada as well as Conservative, NDP and Liberal MPs.

 Energy efficiency skeptics and believers

Queries were fielded from MPs, ministers’ offices, and policy-makers, but we have not attributed the comments for confidentiality reasons. We discussed the importance of building codes, energy efficiency codes and standards for Canada to keep pace with our North American and international counterparts. This seems to be a common sense argument but the skeptics aren’t buying it (even though the US embassy meeting was very positive with the US-Canada MOU on co-ordinating standards). Instead of seeing energy efficiency standards as a competitive issue that will help level the playing field, their response was “why should the government regulate — let the marketplace handle it.” Their secondary concern was the long-term savings from energy efficiency pale in comparison to the high upfront costs for the consumer.

Energy efficiency believers did ask for clarification on why we need the Office of Energy Efficiency (see a blog I wrote about earlier). They asked for numbers on how many jobs energy efficiency creates and whether a low interest rate fund for EE products would be more effective than the ecoEnergy program – some also asked how to make that program better. There was an appetite for simple programs that would appeal to Canadians, similar to German banks that offer homeowners free energy audits. And not surprisingly there was an energy efficiency believer with a background in energy conservation who thought industry should be focusing on regulation because legislation is difficult to get done. There was a call for the energy efficiency industry to take more of a consumer approach to show how much energy efficiency can reduce greenhouse gas emissions through personal actions.

To talk about GHG or to not talk about GHG

That was an interesting request given we also heard that in some well-placed corners in Ottawa people are tired of hearing about how energy efficiency can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While that is still a valid and important argument, and one that Obama is banking on, we do have to listen to the plea for making energy efficiency more relatable. We also need to show how a company can save a million dollars by becoming more energy efficient, and then, as a bonus, cut their carbon footprint too.

The future of the OEE

We definitely have partners to collaborate with in Ottawa. At Natural Resources Canada we were reassured that Minister Rickford’s key priorities include a role for the OEE. Priorities include the export market and diversification, building public confidence through literacy, engagement and innovation and improved environmental performance. We also believe there’s a real possibility of working together in the future toward meeting these goals and any new priorities.

Engaging DND in energy efficiency

CEEA members get to share information on energy efficiency at the Department of National Defence.

Only CEEA members could participate in our information sharing session with the Department of National Defence, another potential partner. The DND manages $25 billion in real property holdings within the Government of Canada. With the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy currently underway the DND property portfolio aims to be more innovative, responsive, efficient, affordable and sustainable, and is of course interested in energy savings.

CEEA’s energy efficiency to do list

We will continue to emphasize the importance of codes, standards and labels. But we need to start showing our stories in action. Next year for Efficiency Matters on the Hill we will have the success stories of innovators and entrepreneurs in energy efficiency. Case studies — that is our homework for 2015.

Posted November 27, 2014

McDonald Interior Colour 2014

Elizabeth McDonald is president of CEEA