Six years after the world signed on to the Paris Agreement — an ambitious but necessary plan to fight climate change by aiming to limit global warming to below 2 degrees compared to pre-industrial levels — more than 190 countries are gathered in Glasgow, Scotland for the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26, Oct. 31 to Nov. 12.
As wildfires, severe storms and flooding intensify, meeting those goals has taken on a sense of urgency. To that end, developed nations are acting on the commitment they made in Paris to update their emissions reduction targets every five years. Canada set its new target in April of 40-45% below 2005 levels by 2030.
With the clock ticking, think tanks, academic institutions and corporations in Canada and around the world are looking for tools to help countries reach net-zero emissions — where the amount of greenhouse gases being emitted is balanced by the amount being permanently stored or removed — by 2050.
Efficiency Canada, a research organization housed at Carleton University’s Sustainable Energy Research Centre in Ottawa, has zeroed in on industrial energy efficiency — including technology to better monitor and optimize usage — as a valuable tool in reducing the country’s greenhouse gas emissions that is being overlooked.
“One of the blind spots in our work over the past couple of years has been that we haven’t really had a focus on industrial energy efficiency, which is a huge part of Canada’s energy usage and requires its own policy system,” says Corey Diamond, Executive Director of Efficiency Canada.
Efficiency Canada is one of 10 organizations (11 research projects) receiving grants of up to $100,000 from Scotiabank’s inaugural $1-million Net Zero Research Fund (NZRF). As part of its Climate Commitments, Scotiabank launched the fund last June to initiate partnerships with leading international think tanks and academic institutions that are working to advance research and leadership in the transition to a low-carbon economy. Scotiabank has since increased its investment in the Net Zero Research Fund to $10 million to help fund other organizations conducting research for positive environmental outcomes.
Through its research and advocacy work, Efficiency Canada hopes to encourage Canadian policymakers to be leaders on energy efficiency, which, according to the International Energy Agency, globally accounts for about 40% of the world’s commitment to meet the Paris targets. “The idea that we came up with for our most recent project is to take a deeper dive into the landscape of potential policies that we could use to encourage better use of energy in the industrial sector,” he said.
“Climate change continues to be a major priority for Scotiabank as we deepen our approach to sustainability by enabling leading Canadian and international academic institutions to drive positive environmental action,” says Meigan Terry, SVP and Chief Communications and Social Impact Officer at Scotiabank. “We are so proud to empower organizations like Efficiency Canada and all of the recipients of Scotiabank’s Net Zero Research Fund that are conducting innovative research that will have a tremendous impact in the transition to a low carbon economy.”
Efficiency Canada will use the funds it received to advance research led by Dr. James Gaede, Senior Research Associate, into public policy strategies to develop and expand the use of industrial energy management systems to meet Canada’s climate commitments.
“Currently, it’s a bit of a fledgling opportunity in Canada. There are pockets that are using it, but it clearly needs a boost, so we’re looking at a policy system that can help give that boost,” Diamond said. “Reducing industrial energy use and emissions will be critical for Canada to meet its net-zero targets.”
Photo: Dr. James Gaede, Senior Research Associate at Efficiency Canada.
Canada’s industrial sector — how we make goods and services across the country — accounts for 37% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and could account for about a third of the country’s potential energy efficiency, he said, citing a report from the International Energy Agency and Natural Resources Canada. Diamond said the federal government has set a target for 75% of all industrial energy use to have an energy management system within the next decade.
Energy management systems work something like a home smart thermostat but on a much deeper level, he explained. A smart thermostat monitors when people are home or away and automatically helps save on energy use. At a manufacturing plant, the management system helps optimize the energy performance of the facility by letting companies see and measure how energy is being used and where they can reduce energy usage.
Developing systems quickly for the complex manufacturing and industrial sector in Canada, though, will take a coordinated effort. Efficiency Canada hopes to create the research to support policy decisions that would help scale up the development and use of these systems and assess the potential for incorporating net zero and decarbonization objectives directly into the system.
“Essentially, we’re trying to look at the broad system for businesses, what governments can do to encourage their use, and the kinds of investment and incentives the government needs to work with the industrial sector to make it happen,” Diamond said.
On top of the federal government’s climate goals, provinces also have climate commitments and energy saving targets. Each year, Efficiency Canada releases a provincial energy efficiency scorecard to rank the provinces based on their energy savings and identify the leaders and the laggards, with a goal of encouraging provinces to further improve the policy structure and reduce their climate impact.
"We hope that we don’t just produce a report that a handful of people read and then stick it on a shelf, but that it can actually inform governments policymaking for their net zero commitments,” Diamond said.
Other recipients of Scotiabank’s Net Zero Research Fund by proposed research type are:
- Explore public policy pathways to lower greenhouse gas emissions
- Tecnologico de Monterrey, Mexico
- Smart Prosperity Institute, University of Ottawa.
- Identify corporate and sector best practices for the development of low-carbon economies
- Libélula Institute for Global Change, whose research will benefit several Latin American countries;
- Simon Fraser University, Vancouver
- Carbon emissions measurement, capture and reduction technologies and strategies