Federal government asked to set energy efficiency targets for its buildings

A panel of high-ranking commercial real estate experts asked Ottawa to clarify its energy efficiency goals at Tuesday’s 76th meeting of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.
“(Give us) clear goals, clear targets,” John Smiciklas, Building Owners and Managers Association of Canada's (BOMA) director of energy and environment, said in preparatory testimony for the committee’s study on energy efficiency in government buildings, structures and public works.
“(Give us) the opportunity, the tools to reach those targets . . . a competitive benchmarking type process. . . It's the one reason we put together our annual energy environment report which highlights between the performances of very good buildings, but also (provides) an overall score that shows where you might fit in within the general population, and nobody likes to be last.”
Energy Services Association of Canada president Peter Love had similar advice for Jay Aspin, Conservative MP for Nipissing-Timiskaming, who asked of the five-man panel: “What can the Government of Canada do better?”
Separate goals by department
“I think it's probably best if you do the targets and goals by department,” Love said. “An overall government goal, again no one is responsible for it, or those who are responsible are so high up. I would encourage you to . . . maybe even get down to a particular building.
“Once you've done your benchmark, you should be able to say, ‘These are the buildings we want to focus on for the next five years, whatever buildings they are, and we want to have an annual report on the progress you're making; in five years, time, we'd like to see some end. . . . Here are the tools you can use, of which a performance contract is one, but you may have other ones.’ Again, I think a little bit of competition . . .
“People like a competition. Mayors love it. I know MPs love it. . . . friendly, you don't have to have body contact or anything, but I think you set some targets and see how ministers and ministries can perform, and as long as the rules are fair, I think Canadians like competitions, as long as you're not pre-selecting a particular winner and making the rules so someone wins.”
Ryan Eickmeier, director of government relations and policy for the Real Property Association of Canada (REALpac) agreed established targets are key.
“And when we look at what our members have started to do, it's publishing and actively putting out their energy-use numbers, and that is so important to the end game in this,” he said.
“It's not a public shaming if your building falls below the target you set, but it does give you a clear goal and a clear path forward, and that's something that I think will go a long way in any government program.”
Social, economic and environment all considered
Eickmeier said any examination of energy efficiency must include social, economic, and environmental considerations.
“It is often difficult to make the case for increased energy efficiency when one or more of those factors is absent,’’ he said. ‘’The committee was cognizant of the net positive impacts energy efficiency can have, and received a swath of information from our industry as to where and how we have already implemented these types of measures.’’
Benjamin Shinewald, president and chief executive officer of BOMA, was impressed by what he heard at Tuesday’s meeting.
“The one thing that really stood out in my mind was the level of engagement by the MPs,” he said. “All of them . . . showed a real desire both to learn and to develop an action plan for improving the energy profiles of government buildings.”
“I found it interesting that they focused on the multiple benefits of making government buildings more energy-efficient. They began with the simple financial benefits – saving money through saving energy costs. However, they also identified other benefits – environmental, job creation, public leadership, and more. They saw the big picture and how made-in-Canada programs like BOMA BESt are win-win since they foster all these benefits in such a cost effective manner.”
Committee expressed interest
“I see the committee as open-minded, and quite willing to have this discussion,’’ Eickmeier added. “I was pleased to see the level of interest from committee members towards this topic, and endeavour them to continue searching for ways for government to reduce its environmental footprint.”
For Love and the other panel members, that largely comes down to the federal government setting clear goals and responsibilities.
“Set your targets by department and make a bit of a game of it,” Love concluded, “because I think people do like that internal competition, and I think that's where it can really drive innovation as well. Right now, it's everyone's issue . . . we talk about it.”
“It's out there, but it's no one's real responsibility.”

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