Full Abstract for Gender Diversity in the Low-Carbon Economy Panel at Ontario Climate Consortium Symposium

Here's the full description of the "Gender Diversity in the Low-Carbon Economy" Panel happening 330-5 PM at the Ontario Climate Consortium's 5th Annual Climate Symposium.

Themed Session Submission for Ontario Climate Symposium 2017 at York University

Ahead by a Century and a Half: Envisioning Just Transformations in a Changing Climate

Women and the Clean Energy Transition

Submission organized by Christina E. Hoicka, PowerStream Chair in Sustainable Energy Economics, York University

Contact: cehoicka@yorku.ca


The energy sector contributes to over 80% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions and addressing climate change requires important changes in relationships between technology and communities. However, there is growing concern that lack of diversity in the workforce is a barrier to discourse and innovation of energy in communities. For example, where documented, women often make up less than 20% of an energy sector workforce.

This panel will provide an assessment of women’s participation in the clean energy economy globally and how it can be enhanced, followed by presentations by three women scholars about their cutting-edge research that advances the clean energy transition in Canada. These presentations will cover the topics of how energy can be used to improve livability in urban communities; models of community energy; and the relationships between energy literacy and energy consumption.

Talk Titles & Abstracts

Renewable Inequity? Women’s Employment in Clean Energy in Industrialized, Emerging and Developing Economies

Dr. Bipasha Baruah

Women are underrepresented globally in the energy industry. This paper reviews existing academic and practitioner literature on women’s employment in renewable energy in industrialized nations, emerging economies and developing countries. It highlights similarities and differences in occupational patterns in women’s employment in renewables in different parts of the world, and makes recommendations for optimizing women’s participation. Findings reveal the need for broader socially progressive policies and shifts in societal attitudes about gender roles, in order for women to benefit optimally from employment in renewables. Restructuring paid employment in innovative ways while delinking social protection from employment status has been suggested in some industrialized countries as a way to balance gender equity with economic security and environmental protection. However, without more transformative social changes in gender relations, such strategies may just reinforce rather than subvert existing gender inequities both in paid employment and in unpaid domestic labor. Grounded interventions to promote gender equality in renewable energy employment - especially within the context of increasing access to energy services for underserved communities - are more prevalent and better-established in some non-OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries. OECD countries might be well-advised to try to implement certain programs and policies that are already in place in some emerging economies.


Measuring Energy Literacy in Canada

Dr. Runa Das

Canadians rely on energy to heat, cool, light their homes, to heat domestic water, and to operate appliances. These are necessary services that provide the public with what they truly want—accessibility, comfort, enjoyment, and convenience. But are people aware of relevant energy-related issues and does this factor into the choices they make with respect to their energy use? Policies for transitioning to a low carbon economy will need to involve households and their occupants. As such, this research investigates the determinants of household energy use and is guided by a conceptual framework that is explicitly interdisciplinary.

First, an analysis of national surveys was used to investigate the relationships between dwelling characteristics, household characteristics, and energy use. Approximately one-fifth of the variance in energy use was explained by dwelling and household characteristics, leaving a large portion of the variance unaccounted for. In order to better gauge this unexplained variation an instrument was developed to measure public energy literacy and was conceptualized using previous surveys, frameworks, and models from academic and grey literature. The resulting survey is a 15-item, 5-item, and 9-item measure of energy-related knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours, respectively. Following, this survey was used to assess energy literacy among a sample of Toronto homeowners. In general, participants demonstrated positive attitudes, performed energy-saving behaviours, and demonstrated satisfactory understanding of energy-related knowledge. Interesting relationships were found between the subscales belonging to the measure of energy literacy as well as some additional measures of knowledge and behaviour, suggesting that examination of energy use should be broken down into smaller components, such as curtailment and efficiency behaviours. The subscales belonging to the energy literacy survey added to the explanation of household energy use and provides support for an interdisciplinary examination of household energy use.


Maximizing Societal Benefits of Electricity, Gas, and Water Conservation

Jessie Ma

The stewardship and responsible use of existing energy infrastructure is a key component of a sustainable energy transition. This will minimize the environmental impact of growth in consumption while lowering costs for consumers, especially vulnerable ones.  Conservation can be used as an effective tool to maximize societal benefit by enabling fuller utilization of fixed assets. Targeting conservation at the most elastic (price sensitive) consumers only during narrowly-defined peak periods can increase utilization of fixed assets and drive down unit costs for consumers.  This would reduce the overall capacity requirements of the system, and savings can then be passed onto all consumers in the form of lower rates.  Further, there are opportunities for integration during coincident peak times: namely, during summer for water and electricity, and during winter for gas and electricity.  This concept is further elaborated in the Three Box Solution: Creating the Future; Managing the Present; and Selectively Forgetting the Past.


Local forms and eco-social functions: community energy models in Canada and New Zealand

Christina Hoicka, PowerStream Chair in Sustainable Energy Economics, York University

Julie MacArthur, Lecturer, Politics and International Relations & Masters of Public Policy Program, University of Auckland

On 4 November 2016 the Paris Agreement came into force, prompting renewed attention to mechanisms for climate change mitigation. For energy researchers, community interventions have long held promise for addressing the climate crisis. These include reducing opposition to new green infrastructure, providing new social mechanisms for learning, literacy and facilitating energy conservation and economic development. However, empirical research continues to uncover many differences in the specific forms, functions and policy settings that relate to community initiatives across jurisdictions. For example, in Canada, energy programs based in local community partnerships have been shown to be highly successful in engaging large segments of the population by being more trustworthy. ‘Community’ in ‘community power’ often implies ownership and control of energy assets, represented by generation co-operative structures with varied policy supports. Meanwhile, ‘community energy planning’ is often driven by municipalities, and ‘community’ is interpreted as ‘local’ or ‘location’; participation from the residents of the community is not necessarily understood as central. In New Zealand, community power takes the model of community trusts that largely control the local electricity grid following the country’s radical electricity restructuring in the 1990s.This paper contributes to empirical literature by examining the forms and functions of community energy projects in Canada and New Zealand, two countries with high per-capita greenhouse gas emissions and distinct practices of ‘community energy’. Based in empirical examples selected for a range of models, and in an interdisciplinary approach that employs political science, geography and engineering knowledge, this paper considers the questions: what models of community energy have emerged in these jurisdictions and why? What are their limits? What is the connection between form and function of community energy? Addressing these questions will generate new methods to better understand how to encourage and support community-based interventions as mechanisms for climate change mitigation.