By Heather Scoffield, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA - The federal government is reviving an energy-efficiency program meant to encourage consumers and companies to cut their energy use.
Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver is putting $78 million over two years into collecting and spreading information about buying more efficient vehicles, houses, buildings and appliances.
He says the program will assess existing technology and encourage higher energy standards, leading to an anticipated reduction in emissions of four megatonnes by 2016.
The goal is to push provinces to strengthen their building codes, and to provide consumers with detailed information that will allow them to compare energy-efficient products to more conventional products.
The money will also help beef up energy-efficiency measurements for appliances, and encourage better energy labelling and training for workers.
"These initiatives will help Canadians and Canadian businesses save money while reducing greenhouse-gas emissions," Oliver told reporters.
The funding only lasts two years because the government is facing budget constraints, Oliver said.
"We have to balance the environmental objectives with the fiscal situation."
Environmentalists welcomed the announcement, but said it was only a small fraction of what is needed to get Canadians to embrace a more energy-efficient lifestyle.
Tim Weis with the Pembina Institute said the government money will fund solid and useful information and set some higher standards, but it's a far cry from a co-ordinated national strategy with concrete targets to improve energy use.
"It's a foundation to build on," he said.
The program launched Wednesday is the latest version of the EcoEnergy efficiency initiative, a multibillion-dollar program that began in 2007 but expired last March.
In the last budget, the wildly popular home-retrofit side of the EcoEnergy program was extended for one year, with $400 million. At the same time, the government set aside an additional $86 million over two years to promote energy efficiency, but did not release details on how the money would be spent.
Wednesday's announcement explains the renewal of the smaller and less-known efficiency initiatives. Officials did not immediately respond to requests to explain why the amount of money had dropped to $78 million from $86 million.
Oliver stressed that the $78-million investment will create jobs, but added that he did not have a number for new positions.
Rather, officials explained that department would spend the money on research, analysis and gathering information which would encourage industry to invest in energy-efficient options for consumers — indirectly creating green jobs.
"This is about job creation and a clean energy future for Canadians," Oliver said.
Ottawa has committed to a 2020 target of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 levels, mainly by regulating industrial production in lock-step with the United States.
Environment Canada has attributed much of the rise in emissions over the past decade to an increase in oil-and-gas production and a surge in vans, SUVs and trucks on the road.