New report shows energy conservation is best value for our dollar

This is a guest blog by Gillian McEachern, Campaigns Director for Environmental Defence

We know that reducing the amount of energy used by homes and companies can save families and businesses money on monthly hydro bills. It’s also the cheapest and easiest way to reduce carbon pollution and clean our air.

Now, a new report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) reinforces that energy conservation is also the cheapest option on the market for meeting our energy needs.

The report looked at the cost of energy conservation in 20 U.S. states and found that, on average, saving energy costs 2.8 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). That’s 30 to 50 per cent cheaper than the cost of alternative options for electricity generation in the U.S. like gas plants. It also found that every dollar invested in energy efficiency yielded $1.24 to $4.00 in financial benefits.

The report makes a strong economic argument for why energy conservation should play a key role when planning to meet our energy needs. And it shows that cheap conservation isn’t just a short-lived opportunity – even states that have been aggressively pushing energy efficiency for years can still find cost-effective ways to go further.

Energy conservation saves families and businesses money on their monthly energy bills. How much? Another U.S. study estimates that homeowners could save an average of $1,000 per year if programs were in place to cut energy waste across the country in half. Thanks to improved efficiency, the average house used 19 per cent less energy in 2010 than it did in 2000.

The money saved on energy bills is then put back into the local economy. A recent report by Blue Green Canada estimated that an ambitious energy conservation plan could create more than 25,000 new jobs in Ontario and increase the province’s GDP by $3.7 billion by 2025.

It makes good economic and environmental sense to put energy conservation first. The best way for government to mitigate the pocketbook pinch is by helping homeowners and businesses reduce their electricity usage. This has the added benefit of reducing the amount of energy we need from expensive nuclear and gas plants.

There are a variety of ways that governments can help homeowners decrease energy use. For example, the province can adopt North America’s leading electricity codes and standards for things like household appliances. That way, when you buy a new appliance, you’ll be getting the most efficient option out there.

Municipal and provincial governments can also help homeowners retrofit their homes to be more energy efficient – saving electricity and gas costs – with programs like on-bill financing, retrofit grants or allowing costs to be paid back over time through property taxes.

The good news is that some of these options are already moving forward. The City of Toronto has just launched the Home Energy Loan Program, a new financing tool to help homeowners improve their homes’ energy efficiency and save money. 

Last summer, the Ontario government sought input from the public on its plan to “invest in conservation first, before new generation, where cost effective.” Ontario’s new Long-term Energy Plan, released in December, reiterated the need to prioritize energy conservation.

The new report from ACEEE shows the prioritizing energy conservation not only makes sense for the environment, but is also the cheapest way to meet our energy needs. Doubling down on energy conservation is best way for Ontario to address concerns about the rising costs of energy bills.