Environmental Commissioner: Where is Ontario’s “Culture of Conservation?”

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Toronto – Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner says the Ontario government appears to have forgotten one of the important goals of its own Green Energy and Green Economy Act (GEGEA).

Gord Miller made the observation last week as he released the Annual Energy Conservation Progress Report – 2011 (Volume One), which reviews the government’s progress to date on its energy conservation promises and makes recommendations on how the government can fulfill its commitments to the Green Energy and Green Economy Act.

“When the GEGEA was introduced, the government said that fostering a ‘culture of conservation’ was just as important as increasing the amount of renewable energy,” says Miller. ”But three years after its passage, many of the bill’s conservation promises remain unfulfilled, or in the case of mandatory energy audits before the sale of a home, completely abandoned. Instead of fostering ‘a culture of conservation’ the Ontario government seems intent on making it an orphan.”

The Environmental Commissioner points to three energy conservation promises that were never acted on by the government:

  • The government has not introduced ENERGY STAR® standards for household appliances such as refrigerators, clothes washers, and dishwashers. This would have stopped the sale of less efficient products that consume 20 to 40 per cent more energy.
  • It failed to make energy audits mandatory prior to the sale of homes. Home buyers currently have limited access to information about a home’s energy use. The residential sector accounts for 21 per cent of all energy use in Ontario.
  • The government has not yet banned the sale of the ‘inefficient’ screw-in incandescent light bulbs, which it promised to do by 2012. The federal and Ontario governments have now delayed the ban for two years. This delay will cost Canadians as much as $300 million dollars in higher energy costs.

The Environmental Commissioner says the Ontario government does deserve praise for making the Ontario Building Code more energy efficient and for requiring municipalities, school boards, hospitals and colleges and universities to develop energy conservation plans and to report on their organization’s energy usage. But Miller notes this is an arm’s-length approach to conservation “that leaves conservation disconnected from people’s day-to-day lives.”

“You cannot foster a ‘culture of conservation’ in Ontario,” says Miller, “unless you take actions that actually engage the individual consumer or homeowner.”

Watch the video of the press conference for this report:

Click here to view the embedded video.