One of the lesser known provisions of Ontario’s Green Energy Act is a requirement that all public agencies, including cities, publish annual benchmarking reports summarizing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions from their buildings. This summer the City of Toronto published its first benchmarking report under the Green Energy Act requirements. The report provides comprehensive information about energy use and GHG emissions from over 500 City-owned buildings, including everything from libraries and community centres to sewage treatment plants.
Water and sewage
The benchmarking report shows that water and sewage treatment plants and pumping stations are the biggest energy consumers. These buildings account for about 45% of total annual energy use in the reported facilities (about 2,300 terajoules or 640 gigawatt hours). Of course, it takes a lot of energy to treat and pump over 490 billion litres of water a year, not to mention managing over 430 billion litres of sewage! Over the last eight years, Toronto Water has reduced its electricity consumption by about 8%, which is a good start. But much more improvement is possible, including by improving the efficiency of water use. At least 5% of the water – over 24 billion litres a year – is lost on the way to our taps because of leaky water mains. Modern water efficient toilets and fixtures can reduce water use by 70% compared to older water- guzzling models. Unfortunately, the City canned its highly successful toilet replacement incentive program last year.
Major efficiency opportunities in all facility types
The City has already made significant progress on energy efficiency, but there are still major opportunities for improvements. Within each facility category, the report shows that the worst performing buildings use at least five times more energy per square foot than the best performing buildings. For example, the least efficient library in the city uses almost 9 times more energy per square foot than the most efficient library. While each building is unique, these energy-use intensity comparisons will allow the City to prioritize the least efficient buildings and investigate energy retrofit options.
Stay tuned for next year’s conservation plan
Benchmarking is only the first step. Beginning next year, cities and other public agencies will also need to publish Conservation and Demand Management (CDM) plans to reduce energy use and GHG emissions in their facilities, with specific targets that must be reported against. The benchmarking reports and CDM plans will help the public hold the City accountable for improving the efficiency of its operations. Our current mayor has made reducing waste in government his number one priority — given the impact on the environment and the City’s budget, energy waste would be a great place to focus in the last year of his term.