Energy efficiency and conservation (sometimes referred to as EEC) describe how people use energy, not where the sources of energy come from as with energy generation. Efficiency is the use of energy in a more effective way, so using less energy to achieve the same desired function. Conservation is behaviour or practice that results in the use of less energy.
The built environment represents a significant amount of overall greenhouse gas emissions due to the amount of energy used and historical poor efficiency. Energy efficiency and conservation practices, policies, and technologies are being used in commercial settings, industry operations, and housing. These include everything from the types of lighting, insulation and windows to heat sources and construction methods.
In order to improve the EEC of new buildings, governments are using certification requirements in the building codes, and developers are pushing standards even further . These certifications and standards include LEED, Passive House, Net Zero and the Living Building Challenge.
Products and technologies are also meeting efficiency standards, making it easier to make the right choice for your home or office. Did you know the Energy Star label program has been around since 1992?! It is still consider the most successful voluntary energy conservation movement in history. A number of behaviour change programs also exist, providing information, motivation and incentives to decrease energy consumption. BC Hydro’s Power Smart efforts are one of these programs.
Existing buildings are also undergoing retrofits in order to improve efficiency and conservation. Many of these start by undergoing an energy audit which assess through inspections and test the energy needs and efficiency level of the building. Professional audits are conducted through initiatives such as Canada's Greener Homes Program, but the City of Vancouver has also produced this do it yourself home energy audit guidebook. After a professional audit, the building is given an EnerGuide rating, and the owner is provided a list of ways to improve the building’s energy efficiency.
Regardless of whether you are building a new home or want to improve the energy use in your office, there are number of actions that can be taken on any budget.