Here’s an interesting article from the Wall Street Journal (via the Indianapolis Star) that talks about an “unexpected drop” in electricity consumption across the United States that can’t be explained by the housing crisis or general economic conditions alone. It’s a strange article, in a way, because it doesn’t even mention the word “conservation” and reads like there’s some kind of X-Files mystery to investigate. There is passing reference to customers maybe using less energy because they’re being told to, but it’s hardly held up as the biggest explanation. “Something fundamental is going on,” says Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers. He just doesn’t know why… weird.
Anyway, the same strange phenomenon is happening in Ontario. The difference is that our electricity planners are blaming it on the downturn and not giving much credit to conservation efforts. But with a $26 billion spending program to build more nuclear, at some point the province’s government will have to justify such spending if electricity use continues to decline.
The City of Toronto has launched two funds that will make it easier for schools, churches, hospitals and other not-for-profit sectors to reduce their carbon footprint.
The $42 million Toronto Energy Conservation Fund and the $20 million Toronto Green Energy Fund, created as part of the city’s climate action plan, make available zero-interest loans for projects that aim to make buildings more energy efficient or bigger users of green energy. Up to $1 million will be available for individual projects, on the condition that the funding represents no more than 49 per cent of total project costs. Both new and retrofit building projects, including those involving municipal buildings, are eligible.
It’s a great idea, particularly during the current credit crunch, and we need to see more of the same. In fact, the city might want to check out what’s going on in Berkeley, Calif., where residents can install solar panels and pay for them over 20 years through a line item on their property tax bill. A company called Renewable Funding is administering the program, which could apply to a range of renewable energy and efficiency measures.
I have a story in today’s Toronto Star about George Smitherman, new energy and infrastructure minister for Ontario. Last week, Smitherman directed the Ontario Power Authority to review and “fine tune” its 20-year power plan so that it might accelerate conservation goals and increase renewable-energy targets. Continue reading New energy minister “jazzed” about new job