Why do people in Toronto use 56 per cent more electricity than people in New York City?
There are two main reasons. First, it's expensive to leave the lights on in New York, where residents pay more than 20 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) for electricity. Second, both the New York state and city governments have ambitious programs to help residents and businesses save energy and cut costs.
While Ontario has made some progress in reducing energy waste, we can do far more.
Under PlaNYC, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration implemented an exhaustive review of municipal laws to make sure they weren't getting in the way of green initiatives like solar panels on roofs, stormwater recycling or exterior building insulation.
It also involved financial assurances for privately financed building retrofits arranged through the arm's-length New York Energy Efficiency Corp. The city passed its own energy code to increase the energy efficiency of buildings, with more stringent requirements than the state-wide or national codes.
The city also now requires that large buildings monitor and disclose their energy consumptions. Starting this year, this law will apply to large residential buildings such as condos. The city even designed a special lease agreement to allow landlords and tenants to equitably share the costs and benefits of energy improvements.
Meanwhile, New York State has a retrofit financing program, making it simple for households or small businesses to finance equipment or insulation upgrades through local utilities.
Toronto is experimenting with some of the same ideas but is nowhere near as advanced in implementation or scale. Here's one example: New York's iconic Empire State Building recently rebuilt all 6,514 of its windows and improved controls and equipment throughout the structure as part of a top-to-bottom retrofit that cut its total energy use by 40 per cent.
New York prioritized energy efficiency and made it part of its long-term plan. We can do the same.
Gillian McEachern is campaigns director at Environmental Defence.