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Nova Scotia Needs ‘Rapid Scale-Up’ to Reach Climate Goals, EfficiencyOne Concludes

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Nova Scotia must keep energy savings at the top of its priority list and push to eliminate fossil fuel combustion to build a net-zero economy, concludes an assessment released late last month by EfficiencyOne, the non-profit that runs the province’s energy efficiency programs.

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The 24-page white paper lays out a series of action priorities, including “advanced and aggressive programs” to cut demand, boosting the efficiency of new and existing buildings, speeding up deployment of heat pumps and electric vehicle chargers, and supporting distributed wind, solar, and energy storage for buildings. It lays out five pathways to get the job done while building a green post-pandemic recovery:

• Energy efficiency and decarbonization initiatives that combine whole-building retrofits, integration between electric vehicles and the power grid, and greater reliance on distributed energy resources;

• Wide-ranging partnerships, collaboration, and training;

• Innovative financing and private investment;

• An equity-based approach that eliminates energy poverty;

• Regional capacity-building.

“There is a world of difference between the policies and initiatives for eliminating fossil fuel dependence eventually and the policies and initiatives required to achieve it by 2050,” states the paper, developed by EfficiencyOne staff in collaboration with Cobourg, Ontario-based energy modeller Ralph Torrie. “After more than a century of building dependence on fossil fuels, we must now transition to a net-zero energy system within a single generation. Business as usual simply will not get us to where we need to go.”

“Urgent action is needed to mitigate the effects of climate change,” EfficiencyOne President and Chief Executive Officer Stephen MacDonald said in a release. “GHG emissions in Nova Scotia are down 30% since 2005, but a challenging path lies ahead if we are to achieve net-zero.”

“For Nova Scotia to stay on track with the global target of limiting the average rise of temperatures to no more than 1.5°C, GHG emissions of all types must come down by another 30% by 2030.” Torrie added. “Then emissions must be further reduced to achieve net-zero emissions.”

And “there is no practical pathway to net-zero for Nova Scotia that does not include eliminating or substantially reducing fossil fuel combustion.”

Nova Scotia prides itself on energy efficiency leadership that it dates back to 2007, and the incoming government of Premier Tim Houston identified itself with that record during the provincial election over the summer. But “there is still much to be done,” EfficiencyOne says in the foreword to the white paper.

“Among the work that lies ahead: reducing the use of fossil fuels in power generation; fuel switching in homes and businesses to cleaner and more efficient sources of energy; increasing levels of renewable generation on a small and large scale; using electric vehicles to support the electric grid and help transform the way we use our energy; and implementing higher levels of energy efficiency to support homes and businesses in their efforts to reduce consumption.”

The province must also “build the capacity necessary to achieve our goals, ensuring that skills and trades are developed as new technologies become more widely adopted,” the paper adds. “Capital investments and innovative finance are central to achieving net-zero. And energy poverty must be significantly reduced; no one can be left behind as we transform the economy.”

But despite the “considerable capacity” it says EfficiencyOne has built up on demand-side management, the paper recommends changes ahead if Nova Scotia is to meet the challenge of the climate crisis.

“The levels of energy efficiency, electrification, and decarbonization that are needed for a net-zero pathway in Nova Scotia need to be delivered cost effectively, in a timely manner, and with cohesive supporting policies,” it states. But “the current institutional and regulatory framework in Nova Scotia predates the climate emergency and is not aligned with achievement of provincial net-zero. Achieving net-zero requires an integrated strategy that prioritizes energy efficiency and supports the simultaneous decarbonization of the electricity supply and electrification of buildings and vehicles.”

EfficiencyOne Chief Strategy and Technical Officer John Esiaw stressed the need for early action on the decarbonization goals underlying the white paper.

“We need to get on this, like, yesterday, because the clock has been ticking for too long already,” he told The Energy Mix last week. “We need to invest in the three big areas of emissions reduction: energy efficiency, electrification, and decarbonization. Those are 90% of the emissions right there.”

While not all the emission reduction tools laid out in the paper are available today, “a lot of this isn’t new,” he added. “We can address 65% of the emissions with today’s technologies.” And “as we make the transition, there can’t be anyone disadvantaged or left behind. We live that and we breathe it.”

Esiaw said the paper points to a “significant opportunity for skills and trades and ramping up the industry about as fast as we can,” adding that Nova Scotia currently has 2,500 people employed in energy efficiency and will need 10 times that number to meet its full potential. Last month, analysts at RBC predicted that Canada will face a serious skilled labour shortage, with 700,000 tradespeople set to retire over the next decade.

“That’s a concern, but it’s also a big opportunity,” Esiaw said. “If we get youth engaged now in not thinking every career has something to do with a computer application, these are well-paying jobs. We’re going to need lots of skills and trades. So we need to get on that now to get people educated and excited about this industry. That’s all part of the rapid scale-up we need.”

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