Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Reducing Your Carbon Footprint: Home Energy

by: Tyler Linwood

Editor's note: We continue our Reducing Your Carbon Footprint series, inspired and informed by a report from the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. Previous posts provide advice on reducing your carbon footprint due to our daily travel choices, air travel, and waste.

One of the best things about living in Ontario is that we already have a low-carbon electrical grid. The majority of Ontario's electricity comes from renewable sources, such as hydroelectricity or wind energy, and nuclear power. That said, energy use in our homes still accounts for a quarter of Toronto's overall emissions that cause climate change (greenhouse gases or GHGs).

The biggest factor in determining the greenhouse gas emissions from our homes is the time at which we're using energy. During peak demand times our increased demand for energy is met by firing up natural gas plants, which emit 10 times more GHGs than normal. These peak demand times occur in the late afternoon/early evening on weekdays, and more frequently on very hot or cold days.

Demand for electricity in Ontario is also likely to continue to grow due to our rising population and the adoption of new technologies that consume more electricity, such as electric vehicles. If this new demand isn't able to be met by our low-carbon means of energy production, it may mean peak demand times will occur more frequently, and energy production methods that result in more emissions will have to be used.

What can YOU do about it? Find out, after the jump.

Here are some ways you can reduce your home's carbon footprint: 

  1. Small steps
    • Reduce the use of your air conditioner by turning the thermostat up a degree or two.
    • Choose energy efficient models when it's time to replace your appliances. This will reduce your energy use and save you money.
    • Air-dry your clothes using clothes lines or a clothing horse. 
  2. Medium step: Install a rooftop renewable energy system to reduce your demand. If you produce more energy than you consume, you could even earn money by selling that power back into the grid.
  3. Big step: perform a deep energy retrofit of your home. This becomes particularly cost-effective if you tie the retrofit in with existing renovation plans. The City's Home Energy Loan Program offers low interest loans for both energy retrofits and the installation of renewable energy systems.

What is the City of Toronto doing?

As a part of TransformTO, the City's Climate Action Strategy, Toronto is committed to achieving the following goals:

  • By 2030, all new buildings will be built to produce near-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
  • By 2050, all existing buildings will have been retrofitted to improve energy performance by an average of 40 per cent.
  • By 2050, 75 per cent of the energy we use will be renewable or low-carbon; 30 per cent of total floor space across Toronto will be connected to low-carbon heating and cooling energy.
Note that these goals will be updated in the coming months to meet City Council's new directive on achieving net zero before 2050.

Your turn

Achieving these goals won't be possible without you. And we are here to help. Find out about the programs that are available to help green your home or community, including:

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