While using less electricity can help meet our electricity needs, Ontario must be ready for the demand from a growing economy, more electrification and an increasing population.
Government claims of conservation successes are not substantiated and targets are very difficult to measure. Consumers deserve to have transparent, cost benefit analyses undertaken for future investments in conservation initiatives.
Since 2005, Ontario has made significant investments in electric and natural gas conservation programs.
Between 2005 and 2011, the reductions achieved were significantly affected by the 2008 global recession, which hammered Ontario’s manufacturing sector.
Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner (ECO) says overall energy use in 2015 was down by 3%. The ECO notes that short-term reductions in electricity are less critical over the next few years, given the province’s short-term supply position.
Smart meters and time-of-use pricing help consumers manage their electricity use. Even with these tools, consumers have to work very hard to achieve any savings. Only so many household chores can be done between 7:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. and on weekends when electricity prices are at their lowest.
Ontario continues to send mixed signals to consumers. Higher electricity prices are recognized as a key incentive for ratepayers to change their behaviour.
Ontario’s 2010 Clean Energy Benefit cost taxpayers $5 billion between 2010 and 2015. Concurrently, consumers have subsidized large industrial customers to maintain their competitiveness.
In 2017, the Ontario government’s Fair Hydro Plan reduced electricity bills by an average of 25% for residential consumers. Small businesses and farms rates were lowered too. Ontario’s Financial Accountability Officer estimates cost of the four year plan will approach $21 billion dollars over the next three decades.
Researchers confirm that the marginal effectiveness of conservation spending declines with additional expenditures. That’s because the lowest cost measures are implemented first, which means that future periods must increasingly draw on programs that are more expensive, face more substantial implementation challenges, or target less price-sensitive or conservation-minded customer groups.
If ambitious conservation targets are included in supply planning decisions and the forecasted demand savings are not achieved, Ontario could be left with insufficient supply. This threatens energy security and reliability and results in higher costs. GHG emissions will increase as more natural gas generation fills the gap.
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