Feb 28, 2009

Making the residential sector totally green: Initial Feedback

Our workshop on February 23 was a total success, judging by participant’s reaction and media coverage. Over 40 people attended and spent the day probing the underlying causes of “What’s stopping us from making the residential sector totally green?”.

As we wait for the final workshop proceedings,
Patrick Langston of The Ottawa Citizen wrote this:

"Lack of public awareness and financial aid is stymieing the greening of Canadian homes, according to participants in a workshop promoting eco-building techniques earlier this week.
More than 40 participants tried to understand why the green movement is not going faster, since homes generate one-tenth of Canada's greenhouse gases, and technologies, innovations and practices are available to reduce emissions by 60 per cent by 2030.
"The workshop, which is part of a two-year research project by the University of Ottawa's Telfer School of Management on transitioning to a sustainable society, took place the same day the provincial government announced Ontario's Green Energy Act to promote residential energy efficiency.
"Yet participants made it clear that basic information about the availability, cost, and economic and environmental benefits of energy efficiency technologies is lacking among everyone, from developers and buyers, to real estate agents and lenders."

Peter Kovessy of the Ottawa Business Journal writes that at our workshop, “several green residential experts said previous government incentive programs, aimed at encouraging home energy efficiency upgrades, have a mixed record at best.

Rather than public subsidies, participants at a workshop examining barriers to reducing the impact of climate change in the residential sector suggested the government do a better job promoting measurable standards for home energy efficiency.”

In addition to some of the leading participants such as Mathew Sachs of Urbandale, and David Foster of the Canadian Home Builders Association, Kovessy makes reference to three MBA student presentations, which extracted lessons learned from the evaluation of past programs in energy efficiency in the eighties and nineties.

In referring to low number of houses that had been built under the R-2000 program,
“by that standard the program has not been very successful, concluded Anne Murray Choudhary, a University of Ottawa MBA candidate who analyzed evaluations of the program conducted up to 1995.

In that time period, only 6,500 homes were built to the standards, she said, noting there was low public awareness and a high amount of paperwork required of builders.
Likewise, the Canadian Oil Substitution Program, in place between 1980 and 1985 to reduce the country's reliance on foreign oil, was "not particularly" effective, said another MBA student, Jason Spears.

The government handed out $715 million in subsidies to homeowners to switch their heating systems from oil to alternatives. While the program led to nearly $2 billion in conversions, two-thirds of surveyed participants said they would have made the switch regardless, said Mr. Spears, adding regional differences, such as the lack of natural gas access in Atlantic Canada, hampered the effectiveness of the one-size-fits-all program.

The Canadian Home Insulation Program was similarly established in 1977 and ran for a decade to shield the country from possible future oil shocks by saving energy used for space heating, explained MBA candidate Benedicte Losfeld.

The program only achieved 17-per-cent energy savings among participants, off from the expected 30 per cent, said Ms. Losfeld.

Interim project chair Tom Brzustowski said there hasn't been enough emphasis on management in sustainability discussions given the main impediments tend to be institutional, jurisdictional and cultural, rather than technological.

"There seems to be no shortage of knowledge or innovation," he said. "Maybe we've been too preoccupied with ideas and haven't spent enough time putting things into practice."

1 comment:

francis said...

Good information-thanks. I am keeping watch on all the latest developments in geothermal pumps-makes a lot of sense to me.