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The prolific Environmental Commissioner of Ontario has issued his Annual Energy Conservation Progress Report for 2011 under the Green Energy Act, and he isn’t very impressed. The Green Energy Act has made a huge difference for renewable energy, but conservation (which should probably come first) has lagged. Some progress has definitely been made. But the Commissioner is disappointed that Building Code changes are coming so slowly (allowing Toronto’s current surge of condos to be built the old wasteful way) and that no progress has been made on promises to rachet up appliance efficiency standards.

Why, if the province requires municipalities, universities and hospitals to report their energy use and GHG emissions annually (starting in 2013) and five-year energy conservation plans (by 2014), isn’t the provincial government doing the same?

The Commissioner’s strongest criticism is for the province’s abandonment of its promise to require home energy audits and disclosure whenever a dwelling is sold:

But the big disappointment for Ontarians with respect to both saving energy and consumer protection was the failure of the government to meet its commitment to implement mandatory home energy audits prior to the sale of homes. …

We don’t buy a refrigerator without knowing how much energy it consumes. We don’t buy a new car without knowing its fuel consumption. Young people are already stretching their financial capacity to the limit in order to buy a home. Why do we expose them to unknown risks with respect to energy costs? …

That’s why jurisdictions in Europe, the U.S. and Australia have put in place various kinds of mandatory energy use disclosure policies on real estate. By bringing this information into the light, we protect consumers and help place a market value on energy efficiency, which will hopefully drive additional conservation actions. If the Government wants to foster a culture of conservation in our society, making people conscious of the energy consumption of our homes is an essential first step. We need mandatory home energy efficiency disclosure in Ontario as promised.

We agree. Drive Clean, the automobile emissions equivalent, has been remarkably successful in getting the worst-polluting cars fixed or off the road. Home energy audits might take a while to get used to, but they are likely to work.

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