Energy Diet

To begin with, I have to mention that more than 95 percent of electricity production in our province comes from hydroelectricity. Hydro-Québec, the state-owned utility, controls the electricity supply. Historically, prices have been low, and major energy consumption in houses comes from electricity use. Natural gas and petrol are sometimes used for cooking or heating, but electricity still represents the main demand. Households pay a price so low that the reduction of our energy consumption comes from an ecological, rather than a financial, incentive.

Water is an undervalued resource. The costs of water services in the residential sector range from 0.50 to 0.60 cents per cubic meter. Generally, in Canada, public water supplies are on a uniform rate structure, in other words, the excessive use is at no cost to the consumer. Fore more detailled information click here !

Let’s look at a clear (explicit!) example. I calculated (thanks to Hydro-Québec simulator) the cost of using a standard dishwasher (6 gallons per wash, at an average of 2 kilowatt hours per wash) twice a week in Québec (200kwh total): an annual cost of $14.76 (mostly it equals 200kwh x $.07395 – energy cost). And since water is almost free to use for the average person in Canada, it’s more than affordable–it’s CHEAP!

Let’s compare with other countries considered to have a similar standard of living. The costs are calculated using average prices of 2011 ( The equivalent consumption would cost, in Canadian dollars :

  • $51 in Spain (200kwh x 0,1839€ x 1,3827 (currency conversion) )
  • $65 in Netherlands
  • $35 in France
  • $70 in Germany
  • $23 in the United States
  • Even if the average revenues of households might be a little higher in some of these countries, the cost difference is enormous. And it’s only a dishwasher… It’s not a surprise that our energy consumption per capita in Québec is one of the highest in the world.  YES, we do have extremely cold (Brrrrrrrrrrrrrr!) winters, but Canadians have no clear financial interest to reduce their consumption.

    Electricity is mainly produced from a renewable source in the province’s northern territories, where few people live. One of our biggest challenges is to raise the awareness of Québec’s urban population. Though one could argue that even heavily taxed products are still strongly consumed by the population, we can think higher electricity prices could help us dieting. Since we don’t want to (and can’t)  blame only the political or economical system for our consumption, let’s have a look at what we can do to put Canadians to the diet.

    Our own situation

    We live in an old apartment where oil is used for heating, unlike most of the households. The only control for the heating system and is on the ground floor apartment. We live two levels higher (on third floor) meaning we could open the windows of the apartment when it’s freezing outside and it wouldn’t change the global consumption. What to do in such a passive situation? We’ve identified a few actions to undertake this week. You’re invited to add other actions we could undertake to reduce energy consumption this week!

    Here’s a list of our initiatives:

    –       We bought a thermometer to have information on the exact temperature of the apartment. Eventually (since it’s normally really HOT), we’ll ring the guys with the control system and ask them to lessen some stress on the heating system. We would like to achieve a reduction of consumed oil;

    –       We’re also using thermometer to find (multiple) places where cold air gets in. We bought plastic film to boost the apartment insulation;

    –       Since electricity appliances use energy when plugged but not in use, we’ll unplug them until we need to use them;

    –       We’re going vegetarian for next week!

    We’ll keep you posted on our achievement, and we’re waiting for your suggestions !




    1. David
      United Kingdom
      November 10, 2011, 8:04 am

      If 95% of energy consumption is from renewable resources then, instead of trying to reduce All energy usage, wouldn’t it make more sense to drive an initiative to migrate more of the remaining 5% alternatives also over to renewable?
      No doubt it would also lead to a similar reduction in wasted energy but more importantly it would be directed at reducing use of diminishing fossil fuels.
      Hmm. It would be interesting to see the dishwasher cost figure for UK.

    2. Alexandra
      San Francisco
      November 18, 2011, 1:50 pm

      David, there wouldn’t be enough space on the planet for all the wind turbines and photovoltaic arrays that would be required to supply energy to our ever growing energy needs at the rate they’re going (and, yes, energy usage per capita is actually growing all over the world as I write this). We _must_ reduce energy consumption per capita as the global population increases in addition to migrating to renewables. The problem is too big to be tackled with one answer. We have to use all our tools in the box now.