Alberta Poised for Billions of Dollars in Efficiency Gains


By Sam Eifling

January 23, 2014

Alberta could slash greenhouse gas emissions and save billions a year if the province weren't saddled with a host of "non-economic barriers" to energy efficiency, a new report finds.

"Energy Efficiency Potential in Alberta," by the multi-sector Alberta Energy Efficiency Alliance, predicts the power-rich province could save some $2.9 billion in energy costs annually by 2020 if it adopted a host of efficiency measures across such areas as mining, transport, and commercial and residential heating. Even after the upfront costs of efficiency upgrades, the savings per year would work out to $1.45 billion. The climate-change benefits for Canada's most prolific carbon-producing province would also be reduced significantly. By 2020 the greatest sources of CO2 and its equivalents would be shaved by almost 9 percent — about half of the province's emissions reduction target, the report notes.

Report authors Jesse Row and Eugene Mohareb compared energy efficiency across four large North American utilities and found benefit-to-cost ratios ranging from 1.5 to 3.3, and conclude that such energy efficiency measures tend to return at least twice what they cost.

Drawing upon studies by the U.S. Department of Energy, Suncor Energy, Natural Resources Canada, the Canadian Urban Institute, the city of Calgary and various consultancies, the report projects ample space for a range of efficiency upgrades. Energy efficiency could be improved by 75 percent in lighting, 60 percent in new commercial heating and cooling, 47 percent in commercial water heating, 20 percent in freight trucking, 35 percent in passenger vehicles and 13 percent in mined oilsands and conventional oil and gas production.

While that is, in reality, a daunting roster of challenges, most hinge not on capital scarcity but on a lack of understanding and willpower. A unified, directed approach toward efficiency could push a province known largely for its consumption towards a cheaper, cleaner energy future.