Toronto’s condo community has an opportunity to lead the world in energy conservation while saving vast amounts of money.
This opportunity arises from efficiencies inherent in condo living where many residents share common areas along with the costs and responsibilities of living in a shared home.
Many potential savings are lost due to poor energy-use habits and short-sighted measures that do little to deliver substantial cost savings. Such measures are the result of beliefs, perceptions and individual self-interest inconsistent with reality and available data.
While energy efficient lighting, lights that turn off when a room is unused and similar measures may provide some benefit, they may be minimal in scope.
Many condo corporations focus on energy conservation in common areas and trust that building residents will focus on energy conservation in their individual suites. Available information suggests this is rarely the case.
Utility expenditures can account for 40% of a condo budget. The beginning of a solution to reducing these expenses, of which electricity is the largest proportion, involves individual suite metering, otherwise known as submetering. A submeter measures the electricity use for each suite. A submetering company installs the submeters, measures and reports usage, and bills each resident for their use.
Newer condo buildings are mandated to include individual suite metering. Residents of older condo buildings tend to be resistant to this change. They seem to prefer not seeing or being concerned with electricity bills. This allows residents to act as if electricity is free because it is paid for by the condo corporation. They leave lights on when not home, keep electronic appliances running when not in use, open windows during winter when heat is running and keep air conditioning running when not at home.
Directors in older condo buildings avoid implementing the most effective measure known to encourage energy conservation – ensuring everyone sees what it costs for electricity and paying for their personal use.
Available data suggests that everyone pays more when condo residents do not receive a bill for their personal energy use.
Some countries and people are more proactive at working to reduce their utility costs.
Denmark offers one of the highest standards of living in the world. Danes are rated as one of the happiest people anywhere and out-migration from that country is negligible. The country is also a world leader in energy conservation. In a country where electricity is much more expensive than in Canada, individual use of electricity is dramatically lower. People wear sweaters in winter whereas many condo dwellers spend their winters in shorts while indoor. Danes spend more time outdoor in warm weather rather than spend more on electricity.
One of the reasons Copenhagen, their capital city, has so many cyclists is because the cost of gas is so high. Another reason is that each vehicle purchase includes a tax of 100 to 180 percent of purchase price depending on engine size.
Japan is another country where its citizens are coming to terms with setsuden; their term for energy conservation. Office buildings turn off air conditioning while factories turn off lights and machinery when not needed. Escalators are used as staircases. Japanese businessmen increasingly are wearing casual clothes to work rather than dark suits to reduce the strain on office air conditioning systems.
Japanese manufacturers are developing products to service a home market where power outages are expected to become more frequent. Toshiba is developing a television with a three-hour rechargeable battery. Nissan and Mitsubishi are working to improve electric car batteries so motorists can operate a hot plate should power to their home be unavailable. It may not be long before these products are in demand elsewhere in the world.
High energy prices are not expected to decrease. The only viable solution to rising energy prices is reduced energy use. For condo corporations this begins with individual suite metering and making condo residents directly responsible for paying for their personal energy use.