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Tuesday, 16 March 2010 13:55

How Do We Stop Being Energy Vampires?

Written by Barbara Hetherington
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We are Energy Vampires. Canada is the second largest energy consumer in the world on a per person basis.

Energy consumption is a leading cause of green house gas emissions. Our green house gas emissions are now threatening to unravel many improvements in quality of life we have helped developing nations to achieve. 

EARTH HOUR 2010 takes place on March 27th at 8:30 pm. People around the world will turn off their lights for an hour to demand action to climate change. 

Political leaders around the world have not yet negotiated a global deal on climate change. The United Nations Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen failed to unify the world to act. 

Hundreds of millions of people will turn off their lights for one hour for the third annual EARTH HOUR. This is a unified act to promote awareness of climate change issues. 

What we all do after Earth Hour and the lights are turned back on will make a difference. 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states there needs to be a 50% to 85% reduction in emissions. According to WWF- Canada (World Wildlife Federation), Canada needs “to get smart about how it uses energy by dramatically improving efficiency of industries, homes, offices, and vehicles”.  

If increasing energy efficiency is the fastest and most economical way to meet our energy needs as well as the fastest and most economical way of dealing with climate change, why are we lagging behind? Canada has yet to muster the leadership to ensure that Canada does not fall behind other nations. 

So who is going to lead and who is going to follow?  We seemed to be very caught up in this question. Do we expect government to blaze the trail and we will follow? Do we expect industry to pull up their socks and lead us out of this mess? 

The truth is that we are not doing enough as individuals, as businesses, and as governments. Our energy consumption continues to increase and the solutions we have activated are not effectively addressing this. 

For instance the national Energy Efficiency Act is largely focused on eliminating the least energy efficient models from the market by regulating labeling of appliances, but remember, consumers have a choice of what they purchase. To date, Energy Star products have less than 1/3 of the market share in Canada. A study by WWF-Canada reports that availability, price and understanding product claims on labeling affected the sales. It may be that the best marketed product will still be chosen while increasing best technologies and most efficient models is not promoted with these regulations. 

LiveSmart BC, the program that gives rebates and tax exemptions to consumers renovating their homes to improve energy efficiency was shelved in the summer after running half of the planned 3 year program. The reason was that it ran out of money. Recently the program has once again been resurrected (new budget) with the provincial government earmarking 35 million dollars over 3 years to the program. The only trouble is that in the 1 ½ years the program operated it went through 60 million dollars. Does this mean once again the program will be halted because of lack of funds? You can also add into the mix the politics of using this program to offset the effects of HST on the construction industry that is being reported and you begin to wonder about the commitment to dealing with climate change. 

BC Hydro developed a two- tiered rate system to achieve aggressive electricity conservation targets set by the provincial government. Under a Hydro two-tier rate structure introduced for industrial customers in 2006, a low tier-one price applies to 90 per cent of annual electricity purchases, while the remaining 10 per cent costs more than twice as much per kilowatt hour. This was supposed to be an incentive for industry to conserve. According to recent reports from The British Columbia Utilities Commission many of BC Hydro’s industrial accounts wasted energy by running idle equipment and leaving lights on to preserve their access to cheap power. The customers were concerned that a reduction in their annual energy consumption triggers a reduction in the amount of Base load rate that they pay lower rates for in the following year. Industrial energy use accounts for 1/3 of energy consumption in BC. 

These examples seem to point out that we still look at saving a buck instead of saving the environment, and of course if that is the case we really do not understand the environmental costs before us. 

We have to reduce our energy consumption. As Canadians we use 2.4 times as much energy at home  as homes in Europe. Since nobody is taking an effective leadership role I suggest we all start being our own leaders and not wait for someone to take our hand.

 Let’s begin with our own behaviors and habits that make us Energy Vampires. Start thinking of Earth Hour every hour….and here are some “cheap” tips to get us moving. 

CHEAP TIPS 

  • USE CFL BULBS : an  incandescent light bulb costs less than a buck, but it typically costs 6 to 10 times that for electricity for its short life ( usually 750 hours)  THERE WIL BE A PRODUCT STEWARDSHIP PROGRAM TO RECYCLE CFL BULBS BY JULY 2010
  • DIALING DOWN THERMOSTAT : dialing down thermostat one degree during winter can result in about 1 to 3 % less fuel use
  • PASSIVE SOLAR HEATING: use the sun. Opening blinds and curtains allows sunlight to heat the house. The sun is lower on the horizon in the winter therefore even though it may be less intense; it penetrates deeper into house to warm more area. Close curtains at light to keep heat inside. In the summer keep curtains and blind closed to keep house cooler.
  • PUT A LID ON IT : Use lids on pots when cooking to prevent heat from escaping
  • DON”T STAND WITH THE FRIG DOOR OPEN: Take all the food you need out of the frig at one time. Opening the door pulls cool air from within and causes compressor to go on
  • Volume Food Processing: Cooking in large batches takes less energy and reheating that cooking many small meals.
  • LOCK WINDOWS : By locking windows the weather stripping is compressed creating a more airtight seal
  • BRUSH YOUR TEETH FIRST : Change your grooming routine so that if you are turning on hot water tap you start by brushing your teeth while you are running water and that wash face as water warms
  • STOP RINSING: Newer dishwashers are equipped with sensors that determine how long the wash cycle runs in order to get dishes clean; rinsing the dishes before putting them into dishwasher essentially consumes enough water to wash them twice.
 There are lots of things we can do in our everyday lives every day to become leaders in conserving energy rather than energy vampires. It is time to change and put a stake in the heart of waste. 
 
Last modified on Thursday, 25 March 2010 13:27

Barbara Hetherington

A resident on the Sunshine Coast for 12 years, Barb is active in the arts, with kids and the environment. She is the educational coordinator for Gibsons Resource Recovery Park and started the first Zero Waste Reuse Store on the coast. Through the store she supports people with special needs, Happy Cat Haven and many other charities.

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