Consumer desire to reduce waste and improvise recycling clashes with safety requirements on refilling smaller propane canisters.
Small propane canisters commonly used to fuel camping stoves and lanterns - known as one-pounders – are generally not refillable. Yet it is easy to find internet retailers who can provide adapters that claim to safely allow for the transfer of propane from larger barbecue containers to the empty camping containers. It’s easy to see the appeal for campers looking to reduce the waste generated by multiple empty metal containers at the end of a camping trip. The adapters can be purchased for $20 or less. There are numerous instructional videos, as well as web sites and message boards that extol how easy and smart it is.
But it’s not legal in Ontario, for a number of safety reasons. Ontario’s Technical Standards and Safety Authority issued numerous safety alert bulletins noting that the adaptors designed to complete transfers into smaller, non-refillable cylinders are illegal under the Propane Storage and Handling Code. This is because of the public safety risks posed by fires, explosions and burn hazards. As a result the adaptors cannot be sold in stores.
Propane cylinders must be filled by weight or volume at a TSSA-licensed facility, and Specification 39 canisters (the one-pound camping propane bottles) cannot be refilled at all. More details on the TSSA bulletin are available here.
Ontario campsites have large containers to collect the empty canisters, which are later vented, crushed and recycled.
The TSSA is responsible for promoting and enforcing public safety in Ontario. The Technical Standards and Safety Act regulations apply to three key sectors:
1. Boilers and pressure vessels and operating engineers
2. Elevating devices, amusement devices and ski lifts
Canadians acting to improve their homes and make them more energy efficient want to do so informed about what’s best for them rather than simply because they feel either incentivized or subject to market pressure.
Canadians acting to improve their homes and make them more energy efficient, whether to reduce their contribution to climate change or to improve the comfort or cost-effective operation of their home, want to do so informed about what’s best for them rather than simply because they feel either incentivized or subject to market pressure.
The Consumers Council of Canada released its report Mandatory Home Energy Rating and Disclosure for Existing Houses: Opportunities and Risks for Consumers with this finding, after consulting consumers and industry stakeholders.
A home energy rating and disclosure system (HER&D) was emphasized in the 2016 Ontario Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP). The CCAP found buildings and the energy that they consume represent a quarter of Ontario’s GHG emissions. Single detached housing represents 55.8% (or 2.93 million households) of Ontario’s household building types.
The Ontario government has been developing options for the design of a Home Energy Rating and Disclosure (HER&D) program for Ontario as part of the Ontario Green Energy Act (GEA), with the objective to launch the program by 2019.
The central objective for all the HER&D systems has been to empower the consumer with accurate and insightful information about a home they’re planning on selling, buying or upgrading. The data from this study suggests that a home energy label is only useful if it can inform decisions and drive action from the homeowner.
"What is important to home owners is that a home energy report includes the information they need to improve their homes, and that they can trust that information," said Consumers Council of Canada President Don Mercer. "They worry about receiving misleading information leading to bad decisions on their part, and they are uneasy information they receive may detract from the the market value of their asset and diminish the pride of ownership they feel and enjoy."
The research found buyers already consider evidence of a home’s condition, including with respect to its energy performance, to develop their views of a home’s worth.
The ideal scenario from a consumer perspective for the introduction of home energy ratings would include:
access to good quality information and homeowner education.
minimal complexity, cost and time needed to obtain a home energy rating.
quality assurance of the rating results and resulting advice.
an emphasis on assisting a home owner to understand the improvements they can make cost effectively rather than on a performance grade.
reasonable exemptions from a requirement to obtain an energy efficiency rating.
a manageable if steady effort to improve the energy efficiency of homes to avoid backlash against initiatives to do so.
sensitivity to home owners’ reasonable rights to privacy.
This latest research follows on the Council’s 2017 research report Incenting Energy Efficient Retrofits: Risks and Opportunities for Consumers, which found widespread support for government programs that help people improve the energy performance of their homes.
"Consumers feel challenged to modify their behaviour and personal assets such as their home to do their part to both moderate and prepare for the impacts of climate change," said Mercer. "People are seeking a fair balance between personal and societal responsibility and action.
"Consumers are anxious about how to receive the introduction of new market forces even as they face the impact on themselves, their families and their homes of a more forceful nature.”
Consumers Council of Canada has received funding from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada’s Contributions Program for Non-profit Consumer and Voluntary Organizations. The views expressed in this report are not necessarily those of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada or the Government of Canada.
Half of Canadian consumers say they have participated in government or utility organized programs to improve home energy efficiency and most of them were satisfied with the outcome, research by the Consumers Council of Canada found.
More than three-quarters of consumers say they favour such programs, which they most often learned about from their electrical utility bills, in-store promotions or advertising.
Delayed payment of incentives, subsequent lack of energy cost savings, and unexpected costs were the most common problems for a small share of dissatisfied program participants.
Consumers participate in these programs primarily to save money on their energy bills, and often to make a necessary home improvement. Lower income participants in home energy efficiency programs said receiving an incentive enabled them to make improvements.
“Our researchers found consumers expect to be protected within these government initiated programs, and assured of quality work,” said Council President Don Mercer. “As well, they want to choose their own contractors, with an assurance work is priced and completed properly.”
These results among others are included in the report Incenting Energy Efficient Retrofits: Risks and Opportunities for Consumers, just released by the Council.
The Council gathered consumers views through a national omnibus survey and focus groups. The survey was conducted by Oraclepoll Research Ltd. during October 2016 by telephone with 1,500 homeowners across Canada. The margin of error for the full survey was +/- 2.5%, 19/20 times.
Focus groups of consumers were held in Toronto and Montreal in December 2016. The objective was to explore trends identified by the survey, namely homeowner views about and experiences with energy efficiency retrofits that were part of government and utility incentive programs.
The report, based on the consumer survey, focus groups, a literature review and interviews with 36 expert informants, includes recommendations related to seven theme objectives:
Refine the structure of incentive programs.
Ensure the availability of balanced and truthful information for homeowners from reputable sources that is available throughout all stages of incentive program participation.
Ensure trained and qualified contractors and sub-contractors complete the work for the incentive program.
Ensure trained and qualified energy advisors complete the work for the incentive program.
Quality assurance should be part of the incentive programs.
Add warranty programs to the renovation industry.
Ensure contractors adhere to fair and ethical business practices.
Consumers Council of Canada has received funding from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada’s Contributions Program for Non-profit Consumer and Voluntary Organizations. The views expressed in this report are not necessarily those of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada or the Government of Canada. Download the report
Changes of responsibility in the Ontario cabinet have brought new faces to several key consumer interest portfolios.
Glenn Thibeault has been named Minister of Energy.
Marie-France Lalonde was named Minister of Government and Consumer Services (and Francaphone Affairs).
Former Consumers Council of Canada board member Chris Ballard was named Minister of Housing and Minister Responsible for the Poverty Reduction Strategy.
"The Consumers Council of Canada congratulates all new members of the Ontario cabinet on their appointments," said Council President Aubrey LeBlanc. "The Council notes the past experience of Glenn Thibeault with consumer issues as former official opposition critic for consumer affairs at the federal level. Chris Ballard is well acquainted with consumer protection as he assumes his new portfolio, clearly directed to address an important basic need of all people.
"Marie-France Lalonde has a background in senior's issues, which increasingly dominate the consumer protection agenda, as a signficant proportion of consumers age and face challenges that make some vulnerable to exploitation."
Improving independent institutional representation of consumers is essential to Canada's public discussion about energy policy, and hyperbolic points about electricity prices in Ontario are unhelpful to that discussion.
The Consumers Council of Canada is the major intervenor for Ontario’s retail electricity consumers at the Ontario Energy Board, in concert with a diverse group of other intervenors focused on industrial, institutional, environmental and anti-poverty interests.
The Council, a national non-profit voluntary organization headquartered in Toronto, works in conjunction with these other intervenors, to keep electricity distributors and local power utilities accountable in the price review process at the OEB. However, many costs of many kinds that contribute to current rates are not reviewed by the OEB.
Despite tremendous change in the global energy sector, Ontario consumers pay middle-of-the-pack retail prices for electricity in North America, as indicated by a HydroQuebec report. Price comparators for U.S. states are readily available, too.
LeBlanc raises the Council's serious concerns in the letter about the need to improve institutionalized consumer representation in national policy and decision-making concerning energy.
"Consumer groups need greater capacity to engage public planning and policy processes related to energy," LeBlanc wrote. "Consumers need assurance they will have effective, independent representation. And consumer groups have a responsibility to demonstrate they provide it. Otherwise public distrust for and discontent with business and government will continue its growth."
A strong theme emerging from the research was that Canadians, distrustful of business and government, with which they have consumer relationships, expect strong, institutionally robust consumer representation on their behalf, made possible at arm's length by the resources of business and government.
"We think Canadian consumers believe they have paid for consumer protection, to be delivered by both business and government, and that this includes the accountability oversight provided through institutional consumer representation," said LeBlanc. "Today Canada could do much better at enabling this. But consumers share some responsibility for their weak representation, lacking an understanding of the sophistication of consumer protection regimes, the need to balance sources of influence, and that this requires resources, voluntary and financial, provided in some share by them working in association."