Push for Energy Efficiency in Canadian Buildings

It’ll take more than just money to cut energy use and carbon dioxide emissions in the Canadian commercial building sector, according to a new report, which says significant policy changes are needed as well. But with those changes, the country’s commercial building sector could help Canada cut its greenhouse gas emissions 10 percent by 2050.

The government has committed to cutting its GHG emissions 60-70 percent below 2006 levels by 2050.

The report comes from the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, a government advisory agency, and Sustainable Development Technology Canada, a government-financed cleantech investment group.

There are more than 440,000 commercial buildings across Canada, representing 13 percent of the country’s total emissions and 14 percent of energy consumption, said the study. One big factor in cutting those numbers will be putting a price on carbon. But the study says the government also needs to set up high-efficiency performance standards for new and existing commercial buildings, and put money into technology subsidies or incentives. But its not just smart meters and other energy-efficiency technologies that are needed — the report also calls for more renewable energy, as well as on-site generation and cogeneration equipment.

While there’s still no carbon tax at the federal level in Canada, British Columbia took the lead last year, becoming the first province in the country to introduce a price on carbon. In the U.S., a price on carbon could become a key part of the new administration under President-elect Barack Obama, but for now the Bay Area in California is leading efforts with a carbon tax in the States. Obama is also looking at cutting energy use in buildings, recently pushing for an effort to make government buildings more energy efficient.

In Canada, getting the policy changes in place for more efficient commercial buildings could be a tall order, with building codes generally developed at the provincial and territorial level and implemented at the municipal level. That means the federal government may have to step on some toes to get the changes in place, but “environmental sustainability is a policy objective that can merit government intervention,” the report noted.