Thursday, March 23, 2006

Our Chat with Energy Minister Donna Cansfield

Erin McMurtry is transforming into an activist and in so doing was able to secure an audience with Ontario’s Energy Minister Donna Cansfield to discuss her concerns about Ontario’s clean future turning into a radioactive one.

After much recruiting, some of which happened Tuesday night at the Sierra Club’s California conservation presentation, Erin and a few of us were able to assemble a group of twelve from a variety of backgrounds, including business leaders in renewable energy, conservationists, engineers, a horticulturalist, electrician, marketing manager, writer, actor….

Somebody dubbed us the Cansfield 12. We really wanted a name, as we didn’t represent one group.

Although an eclectic bunch, we were in agreement, more or less, of the message that we wanted to convey. That is, we wanted to fully explore the potential of energy efficiency and the renewable industry, something that the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) did not do, and encourage the phasing out of nuclear energy in Ontario.

Erin gave a quick introduction on our position and thanked the Minister for the government’s plan to phase out coal, and give the solar industry a boost. We didn’t want to go in there with our fingers wagging, so Erin asked the Minister how we could help her ensure a greener energy future, preferably one sans radioactive waste.

The Minister dodged the nuclear issue as best she could. She did assure me that they were exhausting all avenues of energy efficiency, conservation and renewables. She made it clear that the anti-nuclear voice is not the only voice that she’s been hearing. What a surprise.

Kate Holloway and Greg Bonser of Village Technologies rattled off a myriad of renewable opportunities that are apparently under the radar as the Minister herself expressed surprise and interest. She did take notes. More importantly, she invited Kate and Gregg to join her for further discussion.

I should say, the Minister expressed real interest in sustainable technology, showing considerable knowledge in these areas.

She also took note of the comments made by conservationist Doug Hart, Director of Watershed Technologies Inc., which specializes in efficiency in buildings.

Doug pointed out the need for a comprehensive plan of Ontario’s energy situation and potential, far more comprehensive than what the OPA had to offer. A plan independent of the OPA and any other vested body in Ontario would be ideal, he argued.

And that idea went nowhere…

The Minister discussed her meeting with Arthur H. Rosenfeld, California Energy Commissioner and Steve McCarty, Director of Demand-Side Resources of Pacific Gas and Electric Company. The Sierra Club flew them to Toronto to meet with the Minister and other energy folks. The Minister did not seek them out herself, and the Premier did not meet with them. She did claim that her government were exploring best practices elsewhere. I guess she didn’t get around to inviting Rosenfeld and McCarty up herself.

Cansfield told us that Ontario was in line with a lot of what they are doing. To her credit, the government is starting to implement efficiency measures, and they have a plan to make renewable energy 10% of the energy mix by 2010.

Bill 21 is on its way to becoming law, which will make developers accountable for creating energy efficient buildings. For a list of what the Ministry is implementing, visit her site.

We still have a long way to go. According to Mr. Rosenfeld, California’s per capita electricity consumption is a little over 7,000. In Ontario, that figure is 12,000. In addition, Ontario uses 60% more electricity per capita than New York State, according to the Ontario Clear Air Alliance.

The Minister really wanted our ideas on how to turn Ontario into a conservation culture. I think she wanted to impress on us what a challenge it is.Cansfield implied it was difficult capturing the interest of the media, because good news energy efficiency stories don’t do much for your average editor in the mainstream media.

We did talk about getting the message in schools. She mentioned Echo Schools, which now involves 17 school boards, to work with students and teachers in integrating the environment in the curriculum.

The ideas were plentiful and I didn’t have time to write them all down. If anyone who attended the meeting would like to add anything, please make a comment. If you have specific ideas on conservation awareness or any of the other issues raised here, please contact the Minister! She really does want to hear from you.


erin said...

Thanks Cheryl, what I remember the most about our meeting was her comment that you can't mandate(legislate)human behaviour. Ie. they are loathe to put conservation into law. I found that interesting-don't they put anti-smoking into law?
ciao, erin

Kate Holloway said...

Nicely done Cheryl, and thanks for the link/plug!

We'll keep you all abreast of what happens assuming we do get in to see Donna again!

Kate Holloway
Village Technologies