Associations push for more low-carbon buildings

A growing coalition of Canadian associations is pushing for government action to promote low-carbon low-energy buildings under the NetZeroPlus concept.

More energy is used in Canada to heat homes and offices, than is consumed by all forms of transportation.

In testimony before the Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, the Canadian Association for Renewable Energies (we c.a.r.e.) and the Canadian Chapter of the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association (IGSHPA) explained that Ontario consumes 265 billion kWh of energy in the residential and commercial-institutional sectors, compared with 244 billion kWh for all transportation. Of that 265 billion, 218 billion kWh is used for space heating, water heating & space cooling (ie: only 11% of energy in homes is used for lights & appliances).
In terms of carbon, almost all of the 34 million tonnes emitted in these two sectors comes from these three end uses.
The Senate committee is examining the transition to a low-carbon economy (as required under federal reduction targets for GHG emissions) and it has studied the electricity, transportation, oil-gas and other sectors. It has turned its focus to the built environment, and asked executive director Bill Eggertson to comment on the impact of temperature energy demand in buildings.
Carbon emissions are the result of burning carbon energy sources, and Eggertson cited his personal home as an example of integrating low demand and green supply (from solar panels and small wind turbines) to be rated into one of the top-20 energy-efficient renovations in Canada.
An increasing number of associations are starting to promote the concept of NetZeroPlus, which surpasses the offset of electrical usage with PV panels, to include temperature energy. Federal data show that 89% of energy in a home is used for space heating, water heating and space cooling (low-grade thermal end uses), while that ratio is 72% in the commercial sector, which requires more electricity for machines. Almost all of the carbon in both sectors is from these three end uses.
"Exhorting Canadians to limit global temperature rise to 2o is even less useful than the old 1-tonne challenge, where no-one told us what a tonne was," Eggertson said. "If you want us to reduce carbon, tell us how many less kWh of carbon energy we must consume; that is actionable - anything else will fall short."
December 11 marks 20 years since the world collectively recognized the urgent need to act on carbon in the Kyoto Protocol, and Eggertson asked the committee to give Canadians an anniversary present with actionable goals which individuals can adopt to transition to the low-carbon economy of the future.
The Senate video of the testimony is posted at

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