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Getting B.C. to energy-efficiency level of California and Massachusetts

May 31, 2015 - British Columbia could significantly speed up progress on achieving energy-efficient buildings and homes by adopting more stringent approaches—like those used by California and Massachusetts—according to research from the University of Victoria-led Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS).


May 31, 2015
By Anthony Capkun

The report “Accelerating Energy Efficiency in BC’s Built Environment: Lessons from Massachusetts and California” (download below) finds many policy similarities between the three jurisdictions, such as legislated greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction goals, a commitment to achieve “super-efficient” or zero net-energy buildings through retrofits or construction, specific energy intensity targets for buildings, etc.

However, report author Tom Berkhout says that while Massachusetts and California are successfully achieving a sustained market transformation toward “super energy-efficient” buildings, British Columbia is lagging.

“B.C. has no procedures in place to regularly track and publicly report on its progress, while both [U.S.] states have monitoring, oversight and public accountability conducted by the utilities themselves and by outside agencies and stakeholders,” said Berkhout.

He says the province’s 2008 Energy-Efficient Buildings Strategy was “a good start”, but believes a lack of follow-up reporting and the sharp decline in programs to support the strategy “has rendered it inert”. He says the two U.S. states are now achieving energy bill savings for customers, despite rate increases, due to their more-efficient buildings, and B.C. should use their model as a template.

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Other factors cited for the states’ success include:

• updating building code energy efficiency standards every three years, not every five
• subsidized whole-building energy audit and incentive programs
• “stretch building codes” that allow municipalities to adopt greater efficiency measures than the standard building code (the City of Vancouver currently has this option, says PICS)

The report offers five sets of recommendations to accelerate a building sector transformation in the province.

1. Revisit and expand the existing B.C.-wide energy efficiency vision for the built environment.

2. Create multiple institutional triggers to ensure that energy efficiency objectives are kept on track.

3. Appoint an expert, permanent and broad stakeholder representative Energy Efficiency Advisory Council to work with the province to develop, implement and ensure the delivery of an ambitious 20-year building energy efficiency strategy.

4. Empower local communities via legislative changes to become niches for “super-efficient” buildings.

5. Establish a transparent, deliberative process for setting utility energy savings targets that align with the province’s mitigation and market transformation goals.