Tendance vers les éoliennes

Même s'ils sont économiques, les améliorations significatives dans le domaine de l'efficacité énergétique ne surviennent pas spontanément.  Si notre société décide qu'elle souhaite prendre avantage des bénéfices sociaux et environnementaux qu'apporte l'efficacité énergétique, le gouvernement doit alors s'assurer que les opportunités institutionnelles d'exploiter les potentiels de gains énergétiques dans tous les secteurs de l'économie sont effectivement harnachées.



(photo of author David Coon, CBC)








Tilting at Windmills

David Coon,
Conservation Council of New Brunswick

April 2003

wind turbines are nice. Solar is cool. But if you think they are going to have a meaningful impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, think again. 
You can take it from this old fool.

Ecology House Project:
Solarized but energy efficient

(photo: Pollution Probe Foundation)

Going on a quarter of a century ago, the first time serious consideration was given to pursuing a sustainable energy path, a merry band of youth created Ecology House in the heart of Canada's largest city - Toronto. A Victorian house, just a stone's throw away from Bloor and Spadina, was transformed into an urban demonstration of conservation under the auspices of the Pollution Probe Foundation. Spawned by opposition to nuclear power and the advocacy of an environmentally sustainable energy future, the idea was to demonstrate what kinds of things would need to be done at the level of the household to be consistent with such a sustainable energy future.

First appearances were deceiving. The entire south wall of the three-story brick house was covered with glass to provide passive solar heat to the building. However, despite its "Trombe Wall" on the outside, the inside was devoted to demonstrating how to make an urban house energy efficient. This was done. The energy use in the building was cut by 85 percent through upgrading insulation, retrofitting windows, reducing drafts and installing a high efficiency furnace. It was caulking, polyethylene, insulation and thermopanes that were the key, not renewable energy systems. The Trombe Wall demonstrated the principles of passive solar design and supplemented the building's heat supply (winter and summer!), but its most effective function was to attract tens of thousands of people to visit Ecology House who then--it was hoped--would take action to make their own homes more energy efficient.

My point is this. No meaningful impact will be made on reducing greenhouse gas emissions unless we shrink our energy demand by making significant improvements in the energy efficiency of our economy and society. This is a far more important strategy than the development of renewable energy sources.

Okay, it's not just my point. Canada's sustainable energy analyst extraordinaire, Ralph Torrie, has been working hard to analyse how Canada and New Brunswick can significantly reduce their greenhouse gas emissions while phasing out nuclear power and coal and oil-fired (Orimulsion in New Brunswick's case) electricity generation.

Mr. Torrie's consulting firm, Torrie Smith and Associates, has carried out the only analysis in Canada that looks at how we can actually achieve our Kyoto target and the much deeper reductions that will be required to halt the growing upheaval in the global climate system. This was done for the David Suzuki Foundation and the Canadian Climate Action Network.

(source: David Suzuki Foundation)

Torrie Smith looked at what we would need to do to achieve a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 without nuclear power or coal and oil-fired electricity generation, assuming we continue according to current projections for economic and population growth in Canada. More detailed analyses were also done on New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario for the Canadian Nuclear Phaseout Campaign.

So what does a low emission non-nuclear future look like? While wind, solar, biomass, microhydro and tidal energy technologies play a role, in the Torrie Smith scenario they actually account for only 16 percent of new sources of electricity supply for Canada by 2030. It is improvements in energy efficiency, both in terms of electricity use and electricity production through new gas-fired cogeneration that supplies 84 percent of new sources of electricity.

By shrinking the demand for electricity from large central power plants through energy efficiency and cogeneration from industrial and commercial consumers, existing hydro resources in New Brunswick could supply 37 percent of the power to the electrical grid, natural gas 18 percent, new renewables 18 percent and purchases of existing hydroelectricity from Labrador or Quebec 27 percent.

How does the future end up looking something like this scenario? How could you actually achieve the necessary efficiencies in space and water heating, appliance use, lighting, office equipment, fans, pumps and blowers?

Let's look at the residential sector. Wherever it is cost-effective to do so, every home in New Brunswick would have to be retrofitted with higher levels of insulation, high efficiency doors and windows and air sealed to higher levels over the next 20 years. All new buildings would have to be constructed with the highest possible levels of insulation and fitted with the most efficient doors and windows currently on the market.

How could this be achieved? Television commercials suggesting people retrofit their homes would not do the trick.

There would need to be some kind of institutionalized effort to drive the retrofits, much like NB Power's effort to drive households to convert to electric heating in the 1980's. One approach would be to establish an energy efficiency utility whose objective would be to motivate households to retrofit their homes. They would provide energy audits, technical advice, planning, incentives, loans, and so on. North America's first energy efficiency utility has been operating in Vermont for three years.

(image: OEE US)

Still, this would likely be insufficient. Ralph Torrie makes an intriguing suggestion. All buildings could be required to have an energy efficiency audit whenever they are bought or sold. If they did not meet a minimum standard of efficiency, the new owners would be given a list of energy efficiency improvements they could make, along with an option to use a financing scheme that would pay for the retrofit through the energy savings achieved.

Significant improvements in energy efficiency do not happen by themselves, even though they are economic. If as a society we want the substantial social and environmental benefits energy efficiency brings, then government must ensure that the institutional capacity exists to exploit the energy efficiency potential that exists in every sector of our economy.

For more information about the nuclear-free low emissions energy future that Torrie, Smith and Associates have analysed, you can download their report, "Kyoto and Beyond: The Low Emission Path to Innovation and Efficiency," published by the Canadian Climate Action Network and the David Suzuki Foundation, October 2002 from,, or