A newly released effort to stoke interprovincial energy efficiency rivalry shares some philosophical underpinnings with strategies to harness landlords’ and tenants’ competitive spirit to pursue energy and water savings in commercial buildings. In this case, it takes form in Efficiency Canada’s second annual provincial scorecard, which takes a detailed look at commitment, outcomes and potential related to 42 energy efficiency indicators, and charts progress or backsliding against last year’s results.
“Most energy saving policies are implemented by the provinces because they control areas such as public utility regulation and building codes. The scorecard tracks provincial performance and policy initiatives, while aiming to spur healthy competition amongst policymakers,” explains James Gaede, senior research associate with the not-for-profit research and advocacy organization based at Carleton University, and the lead author of the 2020 report assessing and ranking the provinces.
British Columbia and Quebec achieved the top two rankings this year, replicating their standing in the inaugural 2019 scorecard. They are also the only provinces to earn more than 50 of a possible 100 points. Nova Scotia and Ontario switched their 2019 positions to place third and forth respectively this year, while fifth-ranked Prince Edward Island is also noted as the most improved province, climbing up two slots from last year.
In general, there is plenty of room for improvement nationwide, given B.C.’s top standing with a score of 58. From there, tallies slide fairly steeply down to just 17 points for Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador. Rankings and achieved points are as follows:
- British Columbia: 58
- Quebec: 52
- Nova Scotia: 49
- Ontario: 45
- Prince Edward Island: 37
- Manitoba: 29
- New Brunswick: 27
- Alberta: 24
- Newfoundland and Labrador: 17
- Saskatchewan: 17
“No province is reaching the levels of savings achieved by leading U.S. states such as Massachusetts and Vermont. The scorecard presents the performance benchmarks and policies Canadian provinces must hit to catch up,” maintains Brendan Haley, policy director with Efficiency Canada and contributor to the scorecard’s comprehensive analysis of programs, targets, funding levels and efforts within select sectors including buildings, transportation and heavy industry.
The 42 energy efficiency metrics are further grouped in five variously weighted categories. Scores are based on the most recent one-year period for which 12 months of data are available, typically going back no farther than January 2019.
Alberta and Ontario slip while Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island improve
The largest proportion of the score, representing 40 possible points, is attributed to energy efficiency programs, including the net annual incremental savings and peak demand reduction those programs achieve. In this, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia posted the best results with scores of 21 and 20 respectively, well ahead of Ontario’s next highest score at 13.
Efficiency Canada analysts point to slippage in two of Canada’s most populous provinces as Ontario rolled out transitionary conservation and demand management (CDM) programs for 2019-2020, with a reduced budget from the previous government’s mandate, and a new government in Alberta dismantled the provincial energy efficiency agency. Alberta earned just two of the 18 possible points for energy savings and, along with Saskatchewan, scored no points for program spending.
“The reduction in program budgets and savings in Ontario and Alberta have a significant national impact,” Gaede asserts. “If these trends continue, national efficiency and emission reduction goals could be out of reach.”
Although Nova Scotia and Ontario both slightly edge out PEI for actual achieved savings, Canada’s smallest province registered the biggest effort in program spending — measured both per capita and per end-use demand — and for programs targeted to Indigenous and low-income energy consumers. Meanwhile, no province managed to capture a majority of the eight points available for setting energy-saving targets, with Quebec’s 3.5 points representing the best outcome.
Building codes, energy-use reporting and support for market-leading products
Buildings account for the next largest chunk of the total score, at 19 points, and British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia generally emerged as the leading provinces in this category tied to codes, energy ratings and energy use disclosure, and promotion of market-leading window, space- and water-heating products. B.C. did particularly well, securing 16 points, followed by Ontario with 11 and Nova Scotia with 10.
Thus far, only four provinces — Alberta, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Saskatchewan — have adopted the 2017 model National Energy Code (NEC) for larger commercial, institutional and multi-residential buildings covered in part 3 of the code, while B.C. has actually surpassed NEC 2017 with its own BC Energy Step Code. It’s also alone in making a provincial net-zero-energy-ready commitment, with a target date for all newly constructed buildings to meet that requirement.
Ontario stands out as the sole province with mandatory energy-use reporting and disclosure for larger commercial buildings, but captured only half of the four available points for this metric since it lacks energy rating initiatives for single-family homes. British Columbia and Nova Scotia are the only provinces to offer the latter on a province-wide basis, while there are some voluntary municipal efforts in Alberta.
B.C., Ontario and Nova Scotia all captured the maximum three available points for what’s labelled “market transformation”, meaning support for the adoption of high-performance appliances and equipment through incentives, training, certification, standards and/or funding research and development. Only Alberta failed to secure any points for this metric.
The scorecard’s three other main categories cover: enabling policies (17 points); transportation (17 points); and industry (7 points). Perhaps most notably here, Quebec achieved the full 17 points available in the transportation category — largely due to its support for electrical vehicles and associated infrastructure — while all other provinces except for British Columbia scored less than half that amount.
Quebec was also among the high scorers for enabling polices, earning 11 points across a the range of metrics related to financing mechanisms, research and pilot projects, energy management resources and modernization of the electricity grid. British Columbia was the top-ranked province in the category, with 12 points, while Ontario matched Quebec’s 11.
Energy management resources for the commercial sector
Perhaps most pertinently for the commercial, institutional and industrial sectors, this category includes a metric tracking support for and uptake of certified energy managers. Nova Scotia, Ontario, British Columbia and New Brunswick all scored highly based on analysts’ calculation of the number of certified energy managers in the province divided by the number of businesses or organizations with more than 100 employees.
Ontario tops the list for sheer numbers with 1,053 certified energy managers as of July 2020, which works out to a ratio of 10.1 energy managers per 100 large businesses. However, Nova Scotia’s 76 certified energy managers equate to a higher ratio of 12.3 energy managers per 100 large businesses. Manitoba and Saskatchewan were the only provinces where the ratio shrank since last year’s scorecard. Even Newfoundland and Labrador, which is home to just two certified energy managers or 0.6 per 100 large businesses, registered an improvement.
Efficiency Canada analysts also indicate they may pay greater attention to this metric, which currently accounts for two points, in subsequent editions of the scorecard.
“Future scorecards could provide more robust tracking of energy training and professionalization. This could include registration data on other certifications, such as LEED and Passive House; a more exhaustive tracking of how energy efficiency considerations are integrated in existing curricula and professional credentials; and an examination of how regulatory regimes support energy efficiency skills in the trades,” the 2020 report states. “We also hope to track multi-unit residential energy advisor certifications in future editions.”