Executive Summary

Canada is the sixth largest consumer of energy in the world. It is desirable to reduce energy consumption due to the environmental, economic and social concerns associated with energy use. One way to reduce energy use is to improve energy efficiency in the residential sector; however, technological, economic, financial, institutional, and behavioural factors all can act as barriers to improving residential energy efficiency.

Our client, L'Union des Consommateurs, is interested in defending the rights of low-income energy consumers in Québec. Three research questions were designed to aid in their work. A methodology was developed in order to answer each question. Question 1: How big is the potential for energy efficiency in the Québec residential sector? The methodology to address this question involved the evaluation and comparison of three different calculations, by various organizations, of energy-efficiency potential for Québec. Question 2: What are the barriers within various socio-economic classes that inhibit consumers from being more energy efficient at home? This question was addressed by categorizing barriers, discussed in various sources of literature, based on which socioeconomic class is inhibited by them. Question 3: What are the appropriate "tools" that are needed to help each socio-economic class of residential consumers overcome the identified barriers to energy efficiency? The methodology for question 3 involved identifying the tools that were used in programs that have been developed to improve energy efficiency in the residential sector.

The reports that we examined on potential, including those of Hydro-Québec and the Energy Efficiency Agency, show that the potential for increased energy efficiency in Quebec is large enough that measures should be taken to improve energy efficiency.

The results of following the methodology to examine questions 2 and 3, has lead us to the following recommendations. Educational programs that focus on energy efficiency and sustainability should be persued in order to ensure energy efficiency in future generations. The government should subsidize energy efficiency programs, rather than subsidizing energy production. The government should implement energy efficient standards, for home building and appliances, which are economically viable for all socioeconomic classes. Non-governmental organizations that work with the government in assisting low-income households could create different or modified programs to assist these individuals with financial constraints. These programs should aim to make information regarding energy efficiency more accessible to the low-socioeconomic class.

We recommend to the client that they collect their own raw data for Montreal so they can find correlations between the variables that are especially relevant for low-income households; these should include income, housing types and number of people per household. We recommend that the client continue research regarding barriers to energy efficiency for Quebec's low-socioeconomic class.

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