Clarity in Community Energy Planning

Several of my colleagues expressed concern about Ontario’s Municipal Energy Plan program when it was announced.  Not about the funding to support municipal governments but the name of the program.  Would there be confusion surrounding the choice of the word “municipal” over “community”?

However, as the practice of community energy planning continues to improve in Canada and Ontario, we are gaining greater clarity of stakeholder roles, and how to describe them, as well as the best conditions for success.

Community energy plans

Community energy planning provides a platform for the engagement of many stakeholders – business, organizations, individuals and government – to encourage wiser investments in energy infrastructure, harness local energy and make smart land use decisions.  The benefits are many – a more vibrant local economy, job creation, better air quality, more affordable energy bills and much more.  And the need only gets stronger as pressure heightens to manage energy bills, combat climate change and respond to new renewable energy technologies at the local level.

Municipal energy plans

Municipal energy plans are increasingly understood as an essential component of a successful community energy plan.  Municipal governments have responsibility for several activities that are fundamental to achieving the goals of a community energy plan. This is the reason why so many municipal governments across Canada are leading the development of community energy plans. It is also why municipal governments in Ontario will soon be mandated to include climate change and energy targets and policies in their official plans. These activities include land use planning, transportation planning, investments in transit and cycling infrastructure, water and wastewater management, and waste management. For instance, the decisions that a municipal government makes with respect to promoting active transportation can make a significant difference in the contribution that the transportation sector makes to greenhouse gas pollution in a community.  Poor decisions will lock in emission profiles and consumption patterns for decades.

Corporate energy plans

Corporate energy plans also contribute to a community energy plan.  All Ontario public agencies are required to report annually on their energy consumption and release of greenhouse gas pollution. This includes municipalities, schools, universities, colleges and hospitals.  They are also required to set targets and plans to reduce both consumption and emissions.  Public agencies across Ontario are reducing their sector’s contribution to greenhouse gas pollution and saving money at the same time.

Of course, there are many other sectors, that can contribute to a community energy plan.  How well engaged they are makes all the difference.

As the factors for success become better understood, one principle is emerging.  Community energy planning without the committed participation of its municipal government will not be successful.  Municipal energy planning without the authentic engagement of the community in the development is equally unsuccessful.

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