This is a guest blog by Bryan Purcell, Director of Policy and Programs at Toronto Atmospheric Fund. Toronto Atmospheric Fund (TAF) invests in urban solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.
“How can you manage what you can’t measure?” asked Canada Green Building Council’s Mark Hutchison at the recent Ontario Climate Change Lab.
The looming problem: wasteful energy consumption in large buildings. Currently, we lack data about large buildings’ energy performance, but we know they’re responsible for significant greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Twenty-six per cent of Ontario’s emissions come from electricity and natural gas consumption in buildings. The number rises to 50 per cent in the City of Toronto.
If Ontario is to meet its 2020 climate targets, reducing emissions from large buildings will play a key role. Reductions start with more data to inform conservation policy and programs, and strengthen market incentives for improvement.
A gap in information about large buildings’ energy performance makes it difficult to know which buildings will cost more to own and operate. When consumers and investors have access to data, they can make informed purchasing decisions, creating market-driven incentives for energy efficiency improvements.
Enter the City of Toronto. Toronto’s City Council recently committed to implementing an Energy Reporting and Benchmarking policy (ERB). The policy for mandatory reporting of energy usage lays a strong foundation for further efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings. In order to design effective policies and programs to address efficiency, we need to know how efficient our building stock is, how efficiency evolves over time, which sectors are leading innovation, and which ones are the laggards. The new requirements will provide unprecedented access to building-level energy consumption data to help create highly targeted policies and programs and monitor their effectiveness over time.
When it comes to buildings, Toronto has the most significant opportunity for emissions reductions in the province because of the high concentration of large buildings located here. The policy would apply to over 3,000 buildings, totaling 500 million square feet. Impact modelling commissioned by the City demonstrates the potential to generate the following cumulative benefits over a 20 year period:
- 3.3 million tonnes of GHG reductions
- $1.9 billion in savings for Toronto
- 10,000 person-years of employment created
Data collected by this new policy will enable progress in other policy areas, such as community energy planning. Through the Municipal Energy Plan Program and other initiatives, the province has been encouraging cities to develop local plans to meet current and future energy needs with clean energy and conservation. But cities can’t access data to find out where and how energy is used in their communities. The ERB policy will make that data available for the first time.
Toronto is giving the province until Dec 31, 2015 to adopt an Ontario-wide ERB policy, or it is ready to implement its own city bylaw. Either way, Toronto will be the first city in Canada to implement a mandatory energy reporting and benchmarking requirement, following closely on the heels of leading cities like Washington, D.C., New York City, and San Francisco.
Whether the Province or the City takes the lead, large buildings in Toronto will soon be required to measure and disclose their energy-use and as a result, significant GHG emission reductions can be expected to follow.