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Open, transparent, accountable? Province restricts access to data

Tuesday, January 08, 2013   by: SooToday.com Staff

NEWS RELEASE

ENVIRONMENTAL COMMISSIONER OF ONTARIO

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Ontario government can save energy and money in the province's schools

(January 8, 2013) - Ontario's environmental commissioner, Gord Miller, says more money could be spent on in-classroom education, if the Ontario government and the province's school boards improved their efforts to reduce their electricity and natural gas bills.

Miller today released Volume Two of his 2011 Annual Energy Conservation Progress Report.

This report annually reviews reductions in energy usage, increases in energy efficiency, and the progress and barriers to energy conservation.

Volume One of the report was released in June 2012.

The report found that close to $340 million is spent in Ontario to provide heat and power to the province's public schools.

"There is great potential for savings in improving the energy efficiency of schools," says Miller, "and fortunately, energy is one of the few expenses that can be reduced without affecting the learning environment."

The report says the Ontario government had to abandon its goal of reducing school energy usage by 10 percent, because some schools could not measure their energy consumption.

So it launched a Utility Consumption Database (UCD) to collect data on the electricity and natural gas used by every public school in the province.

"It's a well-known maxim that you can't manage what you don't measure," says Miller. "The database is an important tool that boards can use to identify opportunities for schools to become more energy efficient."

The environmental commissioner points to the success of the Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB), whose data on energy usage showed a wide range in energy efficiency among its schools.

"By replacing windows and boilers, changing lights, and improving heating and air conditioning equipment in just a third of its schools, in a three-year period the board realized a 16 percent reduction in energy usage per square metre, and saved more than $500 thousand annually."

Unfortunately, says the commissioner, the Ministry of Education has decided to keep access to the database restricted to school boards, and rejected a suggestion the ECO made previously to provide open access.

This prevents conservation efforts from advancing to their full potential.

"The ministry and the boards need to sort this out. The ministry says it won't publicly release the information on the energy efficiency of individual schools, because the data belongs to the school boards. But I believe parents, students and community members would like to know the energy performance of their schools."

Miller points out publishing the results could also help school boards improve the energy efficiency of their facilities.

"Companies with expertise in the field could do an analysis of the data, and offer innovative solutions to improve energy efficiency."

The report commended the ministry for its proactive efforts of the past few years.

Because of the database, school boards are significantly ahead of most of the broader public sector in the conservation planning and reporting that will be required of municipalities, hospitals and educational institutions starting this summer.

"The ministry should take the next step, and establish aggressive energy conservation targets for the sector."

A review of three Ministry of Education programs that provide capital funding for school energy conservation will be published in a future ECO report.

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Comments
4
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Polis 1/8/2013 2:32:34 PM Report

Giving the public access to this data would reveal further inefficiencies and allow people with the will and the expertise to make improvements. As individual taxpayers, we are doing this in our own homes to save money and energy. The public should know about what our own school boards (and government) are doing too. I am so tired of paying for the inefficiencies and stupidity of our government. Even students could work on projects and proposals which could be great hands-on learning. It would have to be better than allowing politicians to make the decisions to abandon the task.
lineman3 1/8/2013 3:09:16 PM Report

Again I write the same thing over and over....although I agree in trans-parentcy and saving costs of all gov. buildings as far as energy is concerned. The question still has to be asked why is energy so high especially electicity......Someone has to pay for the gov. energy programs like windmills and solar panels which costs the gov billions!!!!! All for the Green Movement!!!!!!! So like i said lets not only look at how to save lets look at why and how we got here in the first place!!!!!!!!
ThinkAgain 1/8/2013 4:06:23 PM Report

Quote;" The report says the Ontario government had to abandon its goal of reducing school energy usage by 10 percent, because some schools could not measure their energy consumption."

Read the bill, see consumption history and or if all else fails contact the power company.
eds 1/9/2013 7:13:05 AM Report

So this minister says that the liberal's energy conservation program is working as a school board reduced use by 16%.
Yet he complains that they are unable to access the data base of usage.
So why did he make up the 16% figure when he could have said 25% after all with the liberals its not about facts and data its about news releases.
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