Pipelines deliver energy. But how is that energy used?

We use a lot of energy. In fact, Canadians are some of the world’s highest energy users per person. We use slightly more energy per capita than the U.S., and more than Norway (which has a similar climate, but not the vast distances that energy must be transported in Canada).

That energy demand is met by Canada’s diverse mix of natural resources. Our electrical grids alone are powered by oil, natural gas, coal, hydro, nuclear power and wind. Add in the fuel required to drive our cars and heat our homes, and you have a substantial need for reliable, affordable energy.

In today’s environment you can’t talk about energy for too long before the topic of emissions comes up.

To find out how much energy Canadians use and what our related emissions are, we turned to Natural Resources Canada (NRCan). As part of its mandate to “strengthen and expand Canada’s commitment to energy efficiency and to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that contribute to climate change,” NRCan published the 14th edition of its Energy Use Data Handbook earlier in 2017, covering the years 1990 to 2014 — the most recent year for which information is available.

First, a quick primer: NRCan uses the petajoule, or PJ, as its energy measurement. A petajoule equals one quadrillion joules. And a joule is the work required to produce one watt of power for one second.

For perspective, a central air conditioner uses approximately 3,000 watts of power every hour. That equals 3 x 10-12 petajoules. So when NRCan reports energy consumption in petajoules, they’re talking about a lot of energy.

In 1990, Canadians used 1,424.5 PJ in their homes for such things as space and water heating, appliance use, cooling, lighting and so on. Their energy mix included electricity, natural gas, heating oil and “other” forms of energy.

By 2014, that number had increased by 9.5 per cent. Over the same period, however, emissions from using energy in homes actually dropped four per cent. The drop in emissions despite the increase in use can be attributed primarily to an increase in efficiency of household appliances – which improved substantially over that time.

Transportation, however, is a different story. Greenhouse gas emissions created by passenger vehicles (not including freight or off-road vehicles) rose 14.1 per cent.

That increase correlates with energy use over the same period. Between 1990 and 2014, the amount of energy used by Canadian personal-car drivers went up by 18.3 per cent. Emissions rose less steeply than energy use, again because of improved technology and efficiency.

Energy contributes to the high quality of life we enjoy, and the single biggest impact we can have on emissions is to find ways to reduce our day-to-day energy use. Simple things, like not idling our car and turning out the lights when we leave a room, can have a big impact.

As we move into a future with lower emissions and a more diverse energy mix, CEPA members remain committed to ensuring the energy Canadians use every day is delivered in the safest and most responsible way.

Learn more about the pipeline link to climate change and what we are doing about it.