Ontario continues to let millions in potential energy savings go by the wayside – while at the same time pursuing expensive power projects that need to be forced on unwilling residents, environmental commissioner Gord Miller said Tuesday.
“My message is how can we possibly ignore this?” Miller said Tuesday of the potential savings from conserving energy and promoting energy efficiency.
“We’re fascinated with the price of electricity. Well this is the cheapest electricity – it’s readily available, it’s already built, if you like. It involves no more disturbance of anybody’s land or anybody’s home.
“Our culture, our solution is always this – build more. That has been our solution – build more generation and we’ve been pursuing that for decades. The problem is the build more option is always more expensive.”
Miller joked that Ontarians want power – but not if it comes from coal, natural gas, nuclear reactors or wind turbines. People object to living near all types of power plants, he said but the province is still forging ahead with new projects when a greater emphasis on conservation could make some construction unnecessary.
In the past, Ontarians were very conscious of the cost of heating their homes but that’s no longer the case, Miller said.
“Now most kids don’t even know where the thermostat is,” he said. “They know the house is always the same temperature winter or summer. We’re completely detached from a culture of conservation.”
Conservation programs helped Ontario save 605 million kilowatt hours of electrical power in 2011 – enough to power Barrie for a year – at a cost of about three cents a kWh, Miller said.
Toronto Hydro customers are paying more than 11.8 cents/kWh for on-peak power and more than 6.4 cents/kWh for off-peak.
Energy Minister Chris Bentley said Ontario committed $1.4 billion over five years for conservation programs and – as Miller pointed out – was meeting its conservation targets, which he said were the toughest in North America.
“(Miller) made quite a few recommendations,” Bentley said. “He wanted us to update our appliance standards – did that. He wanted us to extend conservation demand management (to 2015) – did that. He wanted us to take a look at the future of conservation demand management – did that. He wanted us to continue to push time-of-use and related pricing – we did that.”
But critics argued the government dropped the ball on promoting conservation, with both the New Democratic Party and the Green Party urging the province to offer energy retrofits for homeowners to increase energy efficiency.
Jack Gibbons, of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance, said Ontario spends $36 building new generation for every $1 it spends on conservation.
“We have a culture here of wasteful electricity consumption and it reflects the tremendous power of the nuclear special interest lobby,” Gibbons said.
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