Energy Efficiency and Renewables


We use energy to heat, cool and light our buildings, run appliances, fuel vehicles, and manufacture the products we use every day. The types of energy we consume for these uses, and the efficiency with which it is used, govern the extent to which our activities contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, and ultimately, to climate change. Studies have shown that warming of the global climate has already begun, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has stated that there is a 95-100% likelihood that the warming observed since the middle of the 20th century has been caused by human activities¹.

Among industrialized nations, Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions have consistently been among the highest, and a large contributor to these emissions are energy uses associated with operating buildings. In 2009, building energy use in the residential, commercial and institutional sectors accounted for 31% of Canada’s secondary energy use and 28% of greenhouse gas emissions². The majority of this energy comes from non-renewable sources, including fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

The energy component of STEP is focused on demonstrating and evaluating technologies and practices that will reduce non-renewable energy use associated with the operation of buildings. Projects are focused on evaluating technologies that harness renewables like solar and wind, and others that are designed to improve the efficiency with which energy is used, particularly for space heating and cooling. Another emerging area of focus is the use of information technology to affect energy use patterns.

¹ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2013. Summary for Policymakers.  In: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis.  Contribution to Working Group 1 to the Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC.  [Stocker, T.F., D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex and P.M. Midgley (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.

² Natural Resources Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency, 2012. Energy Efficiency Trends in Canada: 1990 – 2009.