Reducing GHG Emissions One Municipality at a Time
by Michelle McConnell
Since the phase-out of coal-fired electricity generation, there has been a significant decline in greenhouse gas emissions in the province of Ontario. In fact, according to a report written by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, "Ontario's Climate Change Update," GHG emissions have dropped 10 megatonnes (Mt) in Ontario from 1990 to 2012 (that's roughly a 6% decrease since 1990!). But it's not enough. According to Ontario's 2007 Climate Change Action Plan, the province is hoping to reduce GHG emissions by another 74% by 2050. With goals like that, cracking down is the only option.
In Ontario, the GHG emissions come from virtually all aspects of society. This means fossil fuels used for energy, like heating homes, running vehicles, powering industries and generating electricity. It would seem impossible to lower them all, especially with our current standard of living, but it's not. The Green Energy Act is on a mission to reduce it.
In the Green Energy Act, there's a Regulation called 397/11 (Energy Conservation and Demand Management Plans), which was created for the very reason of reducing GHG emissions across Ontario in a massive way. Enacted on Jan. 1, 2012, this regulation requires all public agencies (meaning every municipality, every municipal service board, every post-secondary educational institution, every public hospital and every school board) in Ontario to "prepare, publish, make available to the public and implement energy conservation and demand management plans or joint plans" to create a sustainable future for all Ontarians. Can you imagine the collaboration that will make this happen? Can a sustainable Ontario actually be possible?
The answer is yes. It is possible, and it's happening right now all across the province with Energy Conservation and Demand Management Plans (ECDM) and detailed Corporate Energy Management Plans (CEMP) for municipalities, towns and cities. CEMPs have been developed by towns across the province to address fiscal, societal and environmental costs and to create sustainable and practical practices for a clean future. Towns across the province are expected to display leadership, improve the delivery of their services and enhance the quality of life in their communities. But how?
Well, different towns are doing different things. For example, the town of Whitby plans to separate actions into short-term, medium-term and long-term actions. Things that are currently in motion include the new Brooklin Community Centre and Library, which were built to a LEED Silver standard; the microFIT solar panels installed at the Civic Recreation Centre; and the LED retrofit pilot implemented for both street-lighting and throughout town facilities. Additionally, all technology is being updated to the most up-to-date in order to meet to highest energy saving standards.
Other towns like Oakville are developing initiatives to shut off inactive computers. Small things make a big difference. The Maple Grove Arena will receive a new energy efficient compressor. The Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts will receive LED signage, and the North Park Quad Pad will become LEED Certified. Certain streets will be updated to LED streetlights and the town will also have a traffic light replacement program. That's only some of the things Oakville is doing to move their plan forward.
Bigger cities are getting involved, too. Toronto, for example, has implemented various initiatives such as the Better Buildings Partnership and the City's Energy Retrofit Program, which have an economic value of over $100 million. All for energy-related projects committed to reducing GHG emissions. The City of Toronto's Energy Conservation and Demand Management Plan explains that they have installed wind, solar, hydrogen and tri-generation facilities at the Exhibition Place and the Enwave Deep Lake Water Cooling system.
Surely these types of updates create massive financial burdens for the towns and cities that are undergoing change, so where is all the money coming from? The Green Energy Act enacted a series of financial incentives for the development of renewal energy. One such program was the Ontario Feed in Tariff (FIT) Program, which is "a guaranteed funding structure that combines stable, competitive prices and long-term contracts for energy generated using renewable resources."
Everything is constantly changing, and who's to say we won't run into problems on the way to a sustainable Ontario? After all, a lot of GHG emissions come from other places like landfills, industrial processes, livestock, and fertilizer use -- to name a few. Regulation 397/11 in the Green Energy Act foresees this constant change and has established a routine review (every five years) of every established plan, to make sure they match up with energy standards as they change. There's still a lot of work to be done, but the Green Energy Act and regulation is leading us in the right direction.
Michelle McConnell is interested in social justice, peace and environmental issues. You can follow her on Twitter @Mich_McConnell.
The PERC thanks the above organizations for their support.
Thank you to Sustainable Eastern Ontario, the Community Foundation of Ottawa, and the Ontario Trillium Foundation for sponsoring the Winter 2015-2016 edition of the PEN.