Community Energy Planning

Towards First Principles of Community Energy Planning

June 23, 2017

Kirby Calvert is a leading thinker in how to support local governments and communities in the energy transition. His recent blog post – Towards First Principles of Community Energy Planning – is an important contribution to the practice. It draws from the legacy of past efforts to begin a conversation about a new model.  He proposes three primary principles. Localization...

Green building: shifting from innovators to early adopters

June 7, 2017

Many systems must change in the transition to a low carbon economy.  The way we plan and make decisions will look different.  There will be new people at the table.  Especially people we had never thought to include before. Already in the home building business, a transition is underway.  The Canada Green Building Council recently launched Canada’s first zero carbon building...

Culture important to achieving low carbon communities

May 4, 2017

When legislation and good intentions meet culture, unintended consequences can occur.  As the saying goes, culture eats strategy for breakfast.  I would add: it snacks on legislation for lunch. Legislation: The province requires all Ontario municipalities to report annually on their corporate energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.  They must also approve a corporate energy management plan.  The public has...

Clarity in Community Energy Planning

March 23, 2017

  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...

Building energy efficiency: cities upping ante

March 17, 2017

I recently shared a post – 8 ways cities are upping the ante on building efficiency. Citing a World Resources Institute report, the author summarized eight actions for urban leaders to accelerate energy efficiency in their cities. It is a helpful summary although the examples of innovation are all international.  So, I thought I would put an Ontario lens on...

Home energy retrofits a climate change priority

January 25, 2017

Many governments in Canada are renewing their efforts to fight climate change.  As they do, the renovation of existing homes emerges as a priority.  Existing Canadian homes are a significant contributor to national emissions.  Governments at all levels are dusting off old retrofit programs and ramping up new ones. Renovation is also one of the least expensive ways to reduce greenhouse...

For the love of a warm, cozy home

January 2, 2017

We pay too much to keep our homes warm and cozy on a cold winter’s day. Why? Because our homes were built to waste energy. That has been our practice for decades. Yes, it is changing.  New homes are less wasteful of energy.  They come with energy efficiency features already built in – from insulation to windows. But that is cold...

QUEST: intensely messy, disruptive, and local

October 20, 2016

  QUEST held their annual conference this week in Calgary – in the heart of energy country. Sir David Anthony King, UK Special Representative for Climate Change, provided opening remarks and they set the stage for the conversations that followed.  These conversation ranged from the global to the local, from growing jobs and the economy to addressing climate change, and...

Accelerate the energy transition

September 12, 2016

Multiple systems must change to address climate change. Likely, a sequence of energy transition pathways will be needed to achieve a low carbon future.  However, the problem is time.  We don’t have much.  Intentional and coordinated interventions from outside of a system can help accelerate change.  They begin with the end in mind. Systems are always changing.  While continuous improvement is commonplace, the transition...

Principles lead the way to low carbon future

June 15, 2016

  It is easy to get distracted during disruptive times – there are shiny new objects at every turn.  How do you wade through the different options?  Tried and true principles. QUEST (Quality Urban Energy Systems of Tomorrow) held their annual strategic planning session in early June, engaging staff, board members and regional caucus chairs in a well-facilitated two days.  Celebrating its 10th...

Energy transition needs to engage people

May 20, 2016

In my virtual twitter world, everyone gets climate change and is working on solutions to prevent further global warming.  They are busy figuring out how to manage the impacts we are already experiencing and to be better prepared for what is coming down the pipe. Mind you I follow @climateoutreach, @350, @OntarioClimate, @MAC_Climate among many others.  You get the picture. In...

Local governments should have our backs on energy security

May 14, 2016

  I am in the final stages of a project for a client.  It is a toolkit for local elected leaders to build more resilient, sustainable and prosperous communities for all Canadians by taking action on climate change. I had the good fortune of talking to a friend about this work who pointed me to the work of George Marshall. ...

Accelerating the transition to low-carbon cities

April 25, 2016

There is an urgent need to accelerate the transition to low-carbon cities. Despite the best efforts of many cities and supporting organizations, we have not seen the uptake or progress we need to help meet Canada’s international climate change commitments. We are great at planning and pilots. We need scale and we need it fast. Our country is among the...

Low carbon cities contribute to our wellbeing

April 20, 2016

Part of my presentation yesterday at the Big Ideas, Better Cities conference on climate change focused on the many co-benefits that come with the transition to low carbon cities.  The theme was echoed by several others presenters. When I talk about wellbeing, I like to use to the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) as my starting point.  The CIW is a Canadian...

It's the low-carbon economy, stupid

April 13, 2016

With an economy heavily dependent on fossil fuel extraction, Canada has struggled to find a credible path forward on climate change. Our emissions are among the highest in the world and are projected to increase without significant intervention. There is a substantial gap between Canada’s current greenhouse gas reduction targets and what will be necessary to honour the commitments made in...

Energy disruption no fantasy

April 12, 2016

Guelph’s community energy plan has been in the news lately.  Understanding why is instructive.  This is my take on it. First, a community energy plan (CEP) is nothing more than a tool to help a community figure out how to use less energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions while driving local economic development.  Guelph’s CEP aims to make Guelph a low-carbon city. ...

Farmers fuel cities

March 28, 2016

There is a saying I see around town printed on bright yellow posters – Farmers Feed Cities.  Today that means more than food.  It also means energy – wind, solar, biomass, and bio-gas.  Farmers fuel cities too. While in Kingston last week, I took in a discussion on rural communities and renewable energy.  The focus of the panel was mostly on solar...

Samso: more than carbon neutral

February 7, 2016

While making breakfast, my husband likes to listen to the CBC. Today he heard a story about a small island in Denmark. This was the second time in a week that the little island of Samso has come up in conversation. This is perhaps not so surprising when you learn that Samso is the first island in the world to...

Barriers to e-vehicle charging stations

February 2, 2016

I often get asked to do interviews on a variety of topics related to cities. The most recent interview was about potential barriers to increasing the number of charging stations for electric vehicles in municipalities.  I bet there will be some. With announcement that the Ontario government will provide $20 million in grants this year to help create a network of...

Great time to refresh community energy strategy

December 7, 2015

I am in the last stretches of completing a review Guelph community energy strategy and much has changed over its 10 year history. In the beginning, we put our focus on energy to create a big tent to engage as many people as possible.  This opened the door to talk with some, although not all, of the doubters.  Even doubters are...

Local Government and the Green economy

November 7, 2015

There were many insights shared at the Green Economy: Ontario conference about the opportunities for green innovation in several sectors with energy, water, transportation and big data particularly noted. I was struck by how many themes had some interface with local governments – either directly or indirectly – and I was able to provide some examples of how local governments...

Green economy

November 4, 2015

I am preparing for a panel at the Green Economy: Ontario conference.  My session is on how public policy can drive green economic growth. The good news is there are lots of examples and opportunities. Guelph has a good story to tell in driving water innovation and it begins with two unique conditions. Guelph is one of a few Canadian cities that rely...