By Arman Kazemi
December 4, 2014
You wouldn’t have known it just by looking, but early November marked the eleventh annual “International Passive House Days.”
Passive buildings are outfitted with energy-conserving technology such as heat-recovery ventilation, rainwater harvesting, airtight insulation and triple pane windows, allowing them to function like regular houses while using 90 per cent less energy and without requiring a furnace.
Like any energy-efficient system, passive homes demand an upfront investment that is earned back over a structure’s lifespan through savings on traditional energy sources.
Efficiency, in short, offers great promise. The International Energy Agencycalls it “the world’s first fuel,” and suggests the market for energy efficiency could be worth $310 billion annually worldwide.
Closer to home, a new study from the Acadia Center has examined the potential for energy efficiency on the Canadian economy. The report, Energy Efficiency: Engine of Economic Growth in Canada, provides a “detailed analysis of the macroeconomic impacts of energy efficiency programs across Canada.”
They found that investment in energy efficiency pays off over the long term and in unexpected ways. For example, they predict that between 2012 and 2040, the Canadian economycould reap a net return of $5 to $8 on every dollar spent on energy efficiency programs, with potential savings between $230 and $580 billion.
All of these savings could, according to Acadia Center President San Sosland, be put back to work “in the local economy, providing widespread benefits beyond those commonly acknowledged or measured.”
Beyond financial returns, investment in energy efficiency could also account for as many as 304,000 jobs in construction, retail, professional services and manufacturing. Once other savings are factored in, the authors figure energy efficiency couldhave much broader economic ramifications, including spill over into employment opportunities in travel/tourism, food services and general retail as well.
A variety of projects affirm the potential of energy efficiency in Canada. A Swedish firm, for example, recently announced asuccessful $17 million bid to supply heat recovery technology for Canadian oil and gas facilities. Another project has proposed an advanced deep-water circulation system that brings water from Lake Ontario to cool buildings in Toronto’s Bay Street, offering an alternative to air conditioning.
If the future is as bright as recent trends suggest, then, just like the passive houses popping up across North America’s, there may be more to energy efficiency than first meets the eye.
Photo Credit: David Dodge