Spotlight: Stepping towards sustainability

Liam McCurry

Based out of Vaughan, the Sustainable Technologies Evaluation Program (STEP) is working to fill the gap between lofty climate commitments and the practical steps consumers can take to decarbonize by demonstrating technologies that work. 

STEP conducts pilot projects on new technologies and collects data on performance and experience. “This process de-risks new technology for potential adopters and overall helps accelerate the transition to low-carbon,” says Erik Janssen. An analyst for STEP, he has been working on various projects for almost ten years.

The City of Toronto has worked closely as a partner to STEP. “It’s a natural partnership,” Janssen says. “We have the same goal.” 

One of the program’s main goals is to raise awareness and break the myths surrounding carbon emissions and potential solutions.

As an example, Jansen notes, “awareness is very low that there are much greener alternatives to the conventional furnace and A/C systems.” 

Focusing on ground and air source heat pumps, STEP is engaging in multiple activities to raise awareness of low-carbon alternatives to heating and cooling your home.

Heat pumps are a more energy-efficient way to heat or cool your home. Instead of generating hot or cold air, heat pumps use electricity to transfer warm air to a cool place or cool air into a warm place.

The most significant source of carbon emissions in Toronto and the GTHA is not from industry or transportation but from natural gas used to heat homes and buildings. 

“The most significant challenge for sustainability in the city, therefore, lies in drastically reducing the natural gas consumption of homes and buildings,” Janssen explains. 

There are technical challenges to overcome, such as ensuring that the grid is up to the task and that electricity is being produced from low-carbon sources.  But, he says, the technology is there to reduce emissions.

Watch for STEP raising awareness on social media, speaking at workshops and webinars, developing case studies for actual retrofits, and creating a question-and-answer portal for homeowners. 

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