Easter Hydro Use Goes Up!

Like everything else in our lives, COVID has affected how we use energy – including on holidays. This year we used considerably more hydro (electricity) than last year.

In our first lockdown during Easter 2020 (blue line in chart), we saw the lowest hydro use in more than 10 years. This wasn’t a surprise as many businesses were closing for the first time, more people were at home, and we weren’t quite sure what we were doing or how long the pandemic would last.  We still don’t know.

This year (red line in chart), more businesses were open – or operating with modified hours. And we didn’t go into a further lock-down until part way through the weekend. While our pattern of hydro use throughout the day wasn’t so different, we seemed to be much more comfortable using much more of it.

Many of us were hopeful that COVID would give us a chance to maintain a drop in energy use. This doesn’t bode well for us.

We are also using more energy and water at home than we ever did and less in the workplace. While we don’t have all of the other data, we know that even though we might be driving yes, we are spending more time at home where we need to heat our homes throughout the day, use more water (5 flushes at home per person per day compared to 3 pre-COVID) and we are using electrically powered devices (can we say screen fatigue) more than ever.

Last September the City of Guelph released its first Sustainability report towards 100% Renewable energy and Net Zero Carbon and how we’re doing on fighting climate change. Unfortunately, it showed that our greenhouse gas emissions went up (slightly) between 2018 and 2019. This September we are looking forward to seeing the 2020 over 2019 report.

Because of COVID-19, we fully expect the next City report to show a significant drop in greenhouse gas emissions, just like the rest of the economy. Will we be able to sustain that drop and keep reducing emissions fast enough? As a community we need to battle climate change aggressively on all fronts. Here is how the City can change the way we do it:

1- Review the 2050 target date for Net Zero carbon and 100%RE
All of the science is telling us that 2050 is way too late. As we develop, we must also re-evaluate this final target and bring it closer – much closer – to today.

2- Develop mandatory interim climate change targets:
With only one deadline – 2050 – how can we tell whether we are progressing well or falling behind on our goals? City Council must develop interim targets in 2 year increments. This gives us a much better method of understanding how we are – or aren’t progressing.

3- Entrench climate change action into the Official Plan review.
All decisions that the city makes must include a ‘lens’ that ensures climate change is front and centre. With the City’s Official Plan now undergoing a review it must include a question like: ‘How will this decision help us reach our climate change goals?’ All decisions at all levels of city government must show how they are working towards our climate targets and not just give them ‘lip service’.

4- Empower City staff to bring their ideas forward to fight climate change
We have great staff working for us in many different departments at the city. Who better to understand the challenges and opportunities available to fast track fighting climate change efforts in their specific field of work. We can’t leave this to one small office to find all of the low hanging fruit of actions available to us and the city. We must empower all city staff to find their voice and help fight climate change everyday.

Will we be able to maintain the expected trend of lower energy use in the coming years?