Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Pieter's presentation at the "Power to Choose Forum"

Note: Pieter Basedow has given a considerable amount of his spare time to helping organize and support SACC, even though he is not a student; we are in his debt.

I am here as an environmental activist to comment on the Province’s energy efficiency plan and how it could be improved. My qualifications to speak on this matter come from my experience as an energy-efficiency consultant with ROI Energy Group. We do air destradification and lighting retrofits for corporate clients, which typically achieves 30 to 50 % reduction in energy usage on an annual basis.

I will address an aspect of the Provincial plan which touches on two key areas for reducing greenhouse gas emissions: conservation and renewables. That aspect is funding. To put it bluntly the Provincial plan lacks sufficient funding.

As of August 1st the Province, through OPA, will give a $150 subsidy to businesses for every kilowatt saved. For example, a 60,000 square foot commercial box-store would receive approximately $10,000 as a subsidy in return for an investment of approximately $100,000 in capitol costs for retrofits. This is insufficient because many corporations lack the funds or financing capabilities to make that initial investment, even though the return on investment is less than two years. The Province does not have to supply grants; it has only to supply loan guarantees to kick-start major conservation efforts.

Again, what the Province should offer is a loan guarantee for the private sector to initiate conservation efforts and facilitate renewable energy infrastructures. For example, the government could guarantee loans to the private sector to convert their buildings to a high standard of energy efficiency and the banks would give the loans because they’re guaranteed by the Province; repayment would be made through the energy savings within a matter of years. In my example, the box-store could access sufficient funds for retrofits from any financial institution because the loan would be guaranteed by the government.

In the renewables sector – by which I principally mean photovolataics and wind power – the payback from energy efficiency is longer than through standard energy-efficiency retrofits, because the investment is greater. The government is making small baby-steps in this direction, but in this day and age when climate change looms on the horizon, the Province shouldn’t be inching away from coal-power and toward renewable energy solutions; it should be making bold leaps in that direction. The Province could get rid of coal-fired power plants before 2014 if it were to provide loan guarantees to stimulate.

A typical 60,000 square foot box-store, just through lighting retrofits saves 500,000 kilowatt hours per year. A kilowatt is approximately 10 cents to the customer; the box-store would save $50,000 per year.

I come from Germany where in 2000 the Energy Efficiency Act came into force, and has since created the capacity for 27 Megawatts of power generation, which is more than what Ontario needs on its hottest days. All of Ontario’s energy needs could be met by clean, safe renewables; there would need no need for the coal and nuclear power plants to continue to exist within a few years if the Province were to facilitate a loan guarantee to the private sector to construct the kind of renewable power supply that currently exists in Germany.

There is a major concern that the shift to renewables would result in a major loss of jobs. This concern is ludicrous if you consider the job creation created by retrofits and renewables. On February 22nd of this year, I was present at a speech at Queen’s Park given by German Parliamentarian Dr. Hermann Sheer, who told the audience that since the Energy Efficiency Act came into force, Germany has created 170,000 new jobs in renewable sector. It has been argued that Ontario lacks the line capacity for transmission of renewable energy, but this precisely why new jobs will be created: to build and then run the new decentralized power facilities required to store and transmit the energy. At the same time, this would give municipalities greater control over their power sources.

In Germany we have very different ideas regarding conversation than what seems to exist in Canada and the U.S. The idea of energy conservation is the norm, not the exception; for example, at traffic-lights drivers turn off their engines; if you don’t turn it off, this is frowned upon. That kind of thinking is present in this room today, but has yet to be embraced by the general public. The Province could do more to stimulate a conservation mentality. Providing public hearings on energy issues in every major city in Ontario would have achieved this purpose.


Charlie Halpern-Hamu said...

You can learn more about the Power to Choose forum here: http://voteforcleanenergy.ca/power_to_choose

You can make your own views known by attending, presenting, making a video or written deputation, or filling out questionaire, all documented at the link above.

There's Power to Choose forum tomorrow (Saturday, 2007 September 29) at OISE.

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