'Canada's consumption of primary energy and electricity per capita is among the highest in the world'
Canada's consumption of primary energy and electricity per capita is among the highest in the world. This is due to a combination of high outputs from energy-intensive sectors, a very cold climate, high living standards, and sprawl, resulting in significant residential and commercial heating demand and large travel distances. Canada is the second-largest country by area in the world, with a third of the population living in three of the largest cities – Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver. As of 2011, Canada has the world's third largest installed hydroelectricity capacity.
Canada is a net exporter of oil, natural gas and electricity, which plays an important role for the national economy and international trade. With improved technology to access the Canadian tar sands in recent years and extensive fossil fuel reserves, energy supply security is not a highly significant issue. Environmental awareness, however, is high – the consequences of a warming climate have affected many parts of Canada through reductions in sea ice and glacier cover, melting of permafrost, heat waves in the south, severe drought on the prairies, ice storms in the east, flooding, forest fires and pest infestations.
Canada is aspiring to high standards of energy efficiency in homes through its Energy Star for New Homes initiative, and has committed significant government funding towards supporting homeowners in upgrading the energy performance of existing homes.
Beaver Barracks is a brownfield development of five buildings of 160 apartments in downtown Ottawa. The development was built and is run by Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation (COCC), a community non-profit organisation. It is one of the few rental apartment complexes in Ottawa's core, because of the draw to build more traditionally profitable condiminium developments. The complex is unique not only because of its low carbon features but because of its mixed-income buildings, with both market and below market rates available. The COCC was able to maintain the building's affordability while integrating sustainable features by offsetting costs with various grants and government funding.
The most important feature of the complex is its use of ground source heat pumps to harness geothermal energy to provide 100% of the heating, cooling and hot water requirements. The Geo-Exchange system is Energy Star compliant and is the largest of its kind in Canada. All five buildings include high performance building envelopes and heat recovery ventilators with exhaust air heat recovery. Other details include extensive roof gardens, energy efficient Energy Star qualified fixtures, appliances and smart meters in each unit.
In 2002, the Canadian government ratified the Kyoto Protocol, and subsequently produced a framework for achieving emission reductions - The Climate Change Plan for Canada. Despite these efforts, Canada will not meet its commitments under Kyoto but has recently agreed to an economy-wide 17% reduction from 2005 emissions under the Copenhagen Accord.
Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) is largely responsible for promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy in Canada, including support for owners of single-family homes. It administers initiatives such as the R-2000 Home standard, an industry endorsed voluntary standard that is based on a set of requirements related to energy efficiency, airtightness performance and the use of environmentally responsible products and materials.
The Canadian Office of Energy Efficiency (OEE) uses a combination of information programmes, partnerships, standards and regulations for energy efficient construction, namely the National Building Code of Canada (NBC), the National Energy Code for Buildings (NECB), and the National Energy Code for Houses (NECH) of 1997. Other standards are administered by non-governmental organisations such as the LEED rating system through the Canadian Green Building Council and the Net Zero Energy Home Coalition that promotes homes that supply the grid using renewable energy sources.
In July 2008, the Council of Energy Ministers endorsed an improved National Energy Code for Buildings that would have the potential to reduce energy demand in Canada by almost 25% of current energy use by 2030. While a new NECH will not be published, the new National Energy Code for Buildings, to be released in 2012, will include provisions for housing in a separate section.
One available scheme is the ecoENERGY Retrofit- Homes Program, which provides a maximum government grant of $5000 following a post-retrofit evaluation of the home's energy efficiency. From April 2007 to the end of the fiscal year in 2008/2009, grants were provided to 94, 000 homeowners, which on average reduced the consumer's energy consumption by 28%. The Canadian budget for 2011-2012 has allocated $414 million to the project for the year and a number of provinces have complimentary programs that can be utilised concurrently.
Under the ENERGY STAR for New Homes Initiative, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation offers a 10% refund on its mortgage loan premium when the borrower buys or builds an energy efficient home. While the property must meet certain minimum requirements, ENERGY STAR qualified new homes are approximately 30 percent more energy efficient than those which are built to minimum building code standards, which ultimately translates into reduced energy costs for homeowners.