From First Fuel: Common wealth with Corey Diamond 16 June 2021

Last week Energy Efficiency Council CEO Luke Menzel sat down to record episode 44 of the Energy Efficiency Council’s podcast, First Fuel. Luke was joined by Corey Diamond, Executive Director at Efficiency Canada, Canada's national voice for an energy efficient economy. Luke and Corey discuss the drivers for energy efficiency policy in Canada, the Canadian Government's recent, multi-billion dollar investments in energy efficiency across buildings and industry, and how Australia and Canada can work together to unlock their 'common wealth': the untapped energy efficiency resource that exists in both nations.

This transcript excerpt has been edited for clarity. To hear the entire discussion, listen here, or search for First Fuel wherever you listen to your podcasts.


[Luke] Over the last eighteen months Canada has had a couple of major drivers for policymaking in the energy efficiency space.

You've obviously had economic recovery post COVID, and a recognition by the Canadian Government that energy efficiency, as Executive Director Birol at the International Energy Agency would say, is a jobs machine. The Canadian Government has really been looking to harness that huge jobs multiplier and that's been associated with some big investments.

But Canada is also ramping up its ambition around climate, and particularly that that 2030 target. We saw at the recent global summit, Prime Minister Trudeau ramping up the 2030 commitments to 40 to 45 per cent emissions reduction. This is another strong driver for the Canadian Government to double down on energy efficiency policy. Do I have the dynamics right there in Canada?

[Corey] Yeah that’s right. We’ve been hard at work highlighting exactly those two things: how do you actually match your economic recovery and come back better than before while also meeting these more aggressive climate actions. Kudos to the Government for not backing down on that challenge.

That has resulted in some big new policies. We have most recently announced $2.6 billion for a seven-year home retrofit program where every household in Canada is eligible for a $5,000 grant, plus a $40,000, interest-free loan to undertake deeper retrofits. That program is supported by $10 million for training to bring up to 2000 more residential energy advisors into the system.

There's a commercial energy efficiency scheme, which we're very excited about, which is through the Canada Infrastructure Bank, which is really trying to create a market for energy efficient upgrades of commercial buildings. And then there's some industrial investment as well through a program called the Net Zero Accelerator.

So all these things were pulled together in the last eight to ten months. And if you look at the investment, it's a little over $10 billion that they're putting towards this. If you compare that to around 2018-2019, if you added up all the provincial investments in energy efficiency per year, you get about $1.5 billion with all the provinces together. Now you're adding $10 billion into the system, and so that's a huge impact.

[Luke] You mentioned the Canadian Infrastructure Bank, and I believe it's $2 billion that has been set aside for incentivising private sector commercial building upgrades. Do you want to give us a sense of what that program is designed to do?

[Corey] So there's an independent bank, called the Canada Infrastructure Bank, which has $35 billion to invest. The Government funnels the money through that, but it's separate and hands-off from the Government. What they were trying to do is figure out: how do we create a market for deeper energy retrofits? And how do we then encourage more the likes of Class B and Class C commercial buildings? Not really the class A big office towers that are able to make these upgrades.

The idea was that if we could set the rules, and we could actually define what it means to do a deeper energy retrofit, and the type of commitments that you would need to make, the type of work that you need to get done, that kind of thing, we could set the rules and the Canada Infrastructure Bank could essentially finance these retrofits and make a return on that, then that would open up an entire pool of private sector capital.

[Luke] You also mentioned industrial decarbonisation. I understand that is not just energy efficiency and energy management, it's accelerating investment in bleeding edge technologies for the industrial sector. And there's maybe $5 billion in that fund. Is that right?

[Corey] It was actually set up as $3 billion in December. And then when the Federal Budget came out in March, they added another five. So now it's $8 billion. Because I think they realised that $3 billion is nowhere near what is required to decarbonise the large, final emitters. So yes, it's really set up for industrial decarbonisation, scaling up clean technology, and really accelerating that industrial transformation amongst multiple different sectors.

On the energy efficiency side, we know that in places like Alberta, where our oil and gas sector is very prominent, they've had large final emitters programs around energy efficiency and how to install energy management systems. They've been oversubscribed, and there's lots of projects waiting to be funded.

There is a goal with the Federal Government to have 25 per cent of all of our industrial output governed by an energy management system. And we're nowhere near that. I think estimates are between one and 3 per cent right now. So, there's a lot of work that has to be done in order to hit that target.

Corey Diamond is executive director of Efficiency Canada, Canada's national voice for an energy efficient economy. Corey has more than two decades of experience leading social change organisations, including 10 years with Summerhill, a national firm focused on engaging the public on energy efficiency behaviours.

Connect with Corey on LinkedIn.

This article was originally published in the June edition of Efficiency Insight.