Planners' energy role discussed: OPPI

October 10, 2016

Urban environments are complex systems

Local planners have a crucial role to play in our energy future.  So it was wonderful to have a good turn out for our 2016 Ontario Professional Planners Institute (OPPI) panel:  The Role of Planners in Community Energy Planning.

There are certainly practical reasons for planners to have attended our session.  Governments are encouraging land use planners to integrate local energy and climate goals into their work.  The Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs has been given the mandate to strengthen climate change policies in the municipal land use planning process. Why?  The transportation and buildings sectors are the two largest emitters of greenhouse gas pollution in the province. Land use planning can promote low carbon choices for transportation, electricity generation and space heating and reduce emissions from these sectors.

However, these are not the only reason why planning professionals are key.  The localization of energy is certainly driving the new role for planners.  While local and community-based energy solutions intersect with traditional land use and infrastructure planning responsibilities, they are also transforming our urban energy system.  So we need people with the right skills to manage change.

As it happens, planners manage change every day. They know how to engage the public and balance the interests of multiple stakeholders.  Planners think long-term.  And if the sessions offered at OPPI 2016 are any indication, they look at the urban environment as a whole system. Importantly, planners also work to create a positive policy environment for sustainable city building.  And we need them to bring together land and energy developers to build net zero communities.

Guelph’s planners integrated energy and climate policies into the Official Plan after the adoption of a Community Energy Plan. These policies subsequently informed other planning documents and infrastructure master plans. This integration also served to operationalize energy planning into the business practices of their engineering and building services colleagues.

The work of planners and their skill set will accelerate the transition to low carbon communities.