Slashing energy consumption by a quarter over the next decade or so could create 25,000 new jobs, concludes a report by a coalition of environmentalists and unions.
The group, Blue Green Canada, maintains that curbing power use would add $3.7 billion to the economy and help cut the federal and provincial deficits by almost $2 billion annually by 2025.
That calculation is based on a boost to real gross domestic product of 0.4 per cent over the next dozen years.
The findings are in a 20-page report — entitled More Jobs, Less Pollution and released Wednesday — that comes as the Ontario government is revising its long-term energy plan, which will be released this fall.
It also coincides with the tenth anniversary of the massive blackout that affected 55 million North Americans and forced people to rethink taking electricity for granted.
“Saving energy can put people to work doing things like building windows and doors, making our homes more efficient and designing new, green buildings,” United Steelworkers’ Mark Rowlinson said in a statement.
“It’s not just good energy policy, it’s good economic policy. Ontario needs to catch up to leading jurisdictions by making this a priority. With smart policy, they can make sure the jobs are retained in the province.”
Rowlinson said promoting energy conservation would result in a 1.6 per cent growth for Ontario’s struggling manufacturers while at the same time reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 19 million tonnes. That’s more than the pollution spewed by Nanticoke coal plant when it was running full blast.
Environmental Defence’s Gillian McEachern agreed it’s a win-win for everyone.
“Failing to move aggressively to cut energy waste not only means leaving money and jobs on the table, but more pollution that affects our health and our climate,” McEachern said in a statement.
“Energy conservation is by far the cheapest way to reduce carbon pollution and should be a priority in our fight against climate change.”
The report says “nothing” is stopping Ontario from cashing in by conserving.
“It’s not magic. In fact, these benefits — as well as cutting global-warming pollution by nine per cent — can be achieved rather simply, by doing more of the things we all do all the time, all across Ontario,” it states.
“We turn off lights. We insulate. We buy more efficient appliances. We use less energy and pay lower bills as a result. We all conserve energy every day, but we can do much more, and government has a key role to play in making that happen.”
The study urges Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government to “embed the conservation-first principle in energy planning.”
That means “a fundamental culture shift” for power users.
“It’s critical . . . that consumers, businesses and utilities are receiving the right financial incentives to save energy. This can include ‘time of use’ pricing, rewards for utilities that exceed conservation targets and innovative financing mechanisms for homeowners.”
Other organizations in Blue Green Canada are the Pembina Institute, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, the Columbia Institute, and Clean Energy Canada.