Canadians need to get serious about energy conservation, report says

OTTAWA, December 20, 2011 – Energy prices are almost certain to keep rising as global demand increases, so it is essential that Canadian governments, businesses and consumers get much more serious about energy conservation, a new report says.

“Better conservation practices will help to insulate Canadians from volatile energy prices, reduce costs for public institutions such as schools and hospitals, and improve the international competitiveness of Canadian companies,” says the report, released today by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE).

The CCCE is the senior voice of Canada’s business community, representing 150 chief executives and leading entrepreneurs from all major sectors and regions of the country.

“Few Canadians deliberately waste energy, but the choices we make push us toward higher energy consumption,” said The Honourable John Manley, the CCCE’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “A renewed commitment to energy conservation would save money, reduce traffic congestion, improve productivity and make our cities more liveable.”

Today’s report, Energy-Wise Canada: Building a Culture of Energy Conservation, suggests two ways of reducing Canada’s energy consumption footprint.

First, Canadians need to become more knowledgeable about their energy choices so they can make informed decisions based on actual costs and benefits. Although most Canadians profess to be environmentally conscious, our behaviour often tells a different story. Today’s cars, for example, are typically more fuel-efficient than older models, but there are more of them and we drive many more kilometers each year.

Similarly, new building codes and better construction materials have made Canadian houses more energy-efficient, yet the average size of a new dwelling continues to increase and our homes contain many more energy-consuming appliances and devices such as computers and televisions, operating for more hours.

Second, the report says that if governments are serious about wanting to promote conservation, they should resist the populist temptation to shield voters from higher energy prices. In most provinces, the government-regulated rates paid by households and some industries for electricity do not even cover the cost of producing and delivering it. Ultimately these costs will have to be recouped through the general tax base.   

The report reiterates the CCCE’s longstanding support for a broad-based carbon pricing scheme that would help to both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and encourage conservation. “It seems clear that higher prices will influence Canadians’ behaviour in a way that public exhortation and appeals to the greater good have not.” 

The report adds, “Canadians – as business owners, farmers, building managers and individual consumers – need to see the everyday cost of inefficient use of energy and be motivated to change their energy consumption patterns and investment decisions.”

Founded in 1976, the CCCE is a non-partisan organization that engages in public policy research, consultation and advocacy. Its members lead companies that collectively administer $4.5 trillion in assets, employ more than 1.4 million men and women and are responsible for most of Canada’s private-sector exports, investment and training.