Paper examines efficiency practices of energy insitutions

Dr. Glen Toner

Dr. Glen Toner

Dr. James Meadowcroft, Theme D lead and Canada Research Chair in Governance for Sustainable Development at Carleton University, recently co-authored a paper examining energy efficiency practices undertaken by energy agencies. The paper, Agency for Change: The Promotion of Energy Efficiency through Institutional Innovation, concludes with first steps and a longer-term strategy for energy institutions in Canada.

Paper authors are: James Meadowcroft, Glen Toner (contact author), Constandina Kutziubas, Milana Simikian, and Leela Steiner.


In the transition to a low-carbon economy, shifts in the way we use our energy are essential to meaningful progress. In turn, a great number of initiatives have increased energy efficiency at the global level and domestically here in Canada. Many of the most promising of these energy efficiency practices have been undertaken by energy agencies. This paper seeks to capture those institutional designs showing the most meaningful, sustained progress in promoting energy efficiency advances.

As energy agencies have increasingly dominated EE efforts, government and quasi-government bodies have begun to proliferate; a World Energy Council survey reported that two-thirds of countries have some form of “permanent, government sanctioned entity responsible for EE policies and implementation.” This is because energy agencies have the capabilities to design, implement, and evaluate programs and measures, as well as to contact and collaborate with a range of stakeholders. Energy agencies also have the capacity to act as coordinators of all government initiatives, provide specialized technical expertise to other government bodies, businesses and consumers, as well as act directly as a promoter of EE to energy companies. In leading European institutions, factors such as motivation, autonomy, capacity, authority, and stakeholder engagement have all had pivotal roles in pushing an energy agency to achieve EE results within these functional roles.

This analysis demonstrates the importance of EE focused institutions in light of these capabilities and factors for success. It draws attention to the potential they can hold for helping the transition to a low-carbon economy, and in particular, the potential that they hold in the Canadian context.

To access paper