Monday, May 18, 2009

It's Energy Conservation Week in Ontario!

May 17 to 23 is Energy Conservation Week in Ontario. The event is organized by the Ontario Power Authority (OPA), the provincial agency charged with the responsibility of ensuring that Ontario has a reliable, sustainable and long-term supply of electricity.

If you’re wondering what conservation has to do with the supply of electricity, the answer is plenty. Generating enough power to fuel the province is both capital and labour intensive. According to the OPA, “Conservation helps reduce the strain on Ontario’s electricity system, ensuring a more reliable supply of power for all users. It also reduces the need for investment in generation and transmission resource, as well as the need for expensive imports of electricity from neighboring jurisdictions.”

In short, a kilowatt of electricity saved is a kilowatt of electricity that can be used somewhere else, rather than having to build new capacity to meet the demand.

Amory Lovins, head of The Rocky Mountain Institute, first popularized this idea. In 1989, Lovins referred to this saved energy as a “negawatt”.

Twenty years later, we’re finally catching up. Today, conservation plays a critical role in balancing our demand for electricity with our capacity to generate it. Conservation programs are cheaper than building new generating capacity and are faster to deliver. Conserving energy also doesn’t produce any of the nasty by-products associated with some forms of power generation such as smog and nuclear waste.

With all that in mind, the idea of “using less electricity, and using it wisely” becomes more than just a cute marketing phrase. Properly delivered, conservation programs could save the province tens of billions of dollars in new construction costs and dramatically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in the process. With so much at stake, engaging in simple acts of conservation like switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) or turning down the water heater suddenly seem a whole lot more important.

In total, the Ontario government has set a target of reducing peak energy use by 6300 MW by 2025. While most consumers understand the message about the benefits of using compact fluorescent light bulbs, lighting only accounts for about 5 percent of residential energy use. Which begs the question, “What else can I do?”

The answer, according to the OPA, is plenty. As the Energy Conservation Week (ECW) website boasts, “There must be millions of ways to save energy. But lets start with 100.”

The idea is to make energy conservation part of your everyday life. The first step is to count yourself in by committing to create your own personal conservation plan using some of the 100 energy-saving tips listed on the ECW website.

For home:

• Schedule an energy audit and act on the results.
• Clean or replace furnace filters (especially if you have central air conditioning)
• Landscape for energy savings.
• Wash only full loads of laundry (in cold water).
• Always set the dishwasher to air dry and only run it when it’s full.
• Vacuum refrigerator coils to keep them efficient.
• Open a window or use a ceiling fan.
• Use drapes/blinds, awnings and shades in the summer to keep the heat out.
• Use task lighting.
• Install motion sensors to turn off lights automatically.

For parents and teachers:

• Teach children good energy conservation habits.
• Choose games and toys with energy use in mind.
• Be a role model for good conservation.

At Work:

• Turn off meeting room lights when not in use.
• Whenever possible, use the stairs instead of taking the elevator
• Turn off all equipment at the end of the day.
• Use paper-reducing strategies.
• Choose green-rated hotels when traveling for business or pleasure.

“Energy Conservation Week provides a focal point for learning what we can do, making a pledge to take action, and gaining from doing so,” said the OPA’s Chief Executive Officer, Colin Anderson. “Saving energy offers three clear co-benefits: It generates employment in Ontario. It supports our economy by saving money. And it helps protect our environment by reducing the need for generation.”


Check out for more great energy saving ideas and to count yourself in!

For almost three decades, The Rocky Mountain Institute has provided global leadership on energy innovation and resource efficiency.


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