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Quebec urges energy retrofits and fuel switching

Monday, June 25, 2018

Conservation is the top priority in Quebec’s recently unveiled plan to reduce province-wide energy consumption, increase low-carbon supply and embrace technologies like electricity storage and smart grid applications. A new centralized agency has been proposed to lead the efforts, which would include distributing $4 billion over 15 years to fund energy retrofits and fuel switching in residential, commercial and institutional buildings.

“It is time to review our priorities in light of the current global context. Quebec possesses all of the tools necessary to become a leader in renewable technologies, energy efficiencies and innovation,” Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard states in the introduction to the 2030 Energy Policy, released earlier this month. “Together, we must be forward-looking and alter energy consumption habits.”

The plan reflects Quebec’s solidarity with the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change and the national target to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. It was one of the first Canadian provinces to implement carbon pricing — through a shared cap and trade system with California and the later, presumably short-lived, participation of Ontario — which will underwrite the 2030 Energy Policy.

Five targets, beginning with a 15 per cent increase in energy savings, set the framework for the policy. The others include: a 40 per cent reduction in consumption of petroleum products; boosting renewable energy to nearly 70 per cent of the total supply; a 50 per cent increase in bio-energy production; and the shutdown of coal-fired generation.

“Energy efficiency, energy substitution and behavioural change are the three linchpins that, taken together, will enable Quebec to successfully achieve the energy transition necessary to attain the targets,” the policy document advises.

The new agency is envisioned to provide one-stop administration and oversight of various government, utility and organizational players. The policy outlines a multi-part mandate: program design, implementation, performance monitoring and verification; public outreach; financing options such loans and loan guarantees; advising government; and addressing the carbon footprint of publicly owned facilities, including in the healthcare and education sectors.

“The new agency draws inspiration from structures established by States that have already successfully undertaken the energy transition,” the policy document states. “The future agency will pinpoint regulatory or normative barriers to private or public initiatives that are in keeping with the objectives of this energy policy and propose the appropriate changes to the government departments responsible. Energy distributors will also be asked to disseminate information and promote energy efficiency programs among their clienteles.”

In tandem, a review and revamp of Quebec’s Régie de l’énergie is planned to give it an auditing and reporting role similar to the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario’s function in assessing progress toward environmental and energy goals in that province. Currently, the Régie is more straightforwardly an equivalent to the Ontario Energy Board, defined as “a public economic regulator that has a mandate to reconcile the public interest, consumer protection and the fair treatment of the electric power carrier and energy distributors.”

For now, the priority placed on energy efficiency is more of a macro-level directive than a detailed agenda of initiatives. Release of the 2030 Energy Policy is the first step, ahead of some required legislative amendments. Three follow-up action plans for the periods of 2016-2020, 2021-2025 and 2026-2030 are promised.

Nevertheless, some key areas of concern are identified in the residential and commercial sectors. The policy calls for programs to encourage homeowners to switch out fuel oil sources for heating and hot water and upgrade to more energy-efficient appliances. It also promises to update building and energy codes for new construction, provide incentives to retrofit existing buildings, and establish an advisory council in partnership with the construction industry.

“We wish to ensure that consumers benefit from the potential offered by the transition to a green, more eco-efficient economy,” observes Pierre Arcand, Quebec’s Minister of Energy and Natural Resources.

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