Themes:

Ontario's energy transition history

January 28, 2019

  Many lessons can be learned from history; that is true of energy transitions. An energy transition is a long-term structural change in an energy system and Ontario has experienced several over the last two hundred years. Our first energy sources were local. Early European settlers in Upper Canada relied on a pre-industrial system for their energy. They burned wood...

Municipal Mayhem

July 30, 2018

Healthy and prosperous communities need good governance, but we seemed determined to do the opposite in Ontario. Ford’s recent meddling in Toronto's election demonstrates that he is more than willing to put his own political interests ahead of the health and prosperity of Toronto, regardless of how you feel about the size of its council. Wynne did the same when...

Stop wasting energy

July 13, 2018

Action on climate change has increased in all parts of Canadian society – individuals, business, civil society and government. The expected backlash from usual suspects is probably the best evidence of this activity, because it sure it isn’t a decline in national greenhouse gas emissions. Paradoxically, I wonder whether our focus on climate change might be getting in the way...

Generation Energy

July 7, 2018

Generation Energy is a national energy dialogue. Launched last year by the federal government, it was charged to sort out what a low carbon future would look like in Canada. Not an easy task in a country tied to a resource-based economy, in our hearts and mines. The Generation Energy Council has just released a report with its vision for Canada’s...

Make it informed, inclusive and democratic, please

July 4, 2018

A well-designed decision-making process is central to accountable local government. If you design a process that ensures all necessary data is provided up front, you will make a more informed decision. If you design a process that engages the right people, at the right time and in the right way, you will make a more inclusive decision. And if you...

Local legacy makers

May 8, 2018

Sustainability transitions are not easy. They are disruptive, by nature. So, when you try to accelerate them, regardless how noble your intentions, it puts a target on your back. People like things the way they are, even when it is not good for them. That is why there are particles of plastic in ninety percent of some of world’s popular...

Elephants and local democracy

April 15, 2018

I have always appreciated the ancient parable of the blind men and the elephant that originated from the Indian subcontinent, many centuries ago. I was first introduced to the fable in an eastern philosophy course during university and it has frequently come to mind over the years. It goes, a little like this: Several blind men come upon an elephant...

Nature-based disruption

March 22, 2018

  World Water Day is celebrated today, and this year’s theme is Nature for Water and explores nature-based solutions to the urban water challenges we face in the 21st century. Nature-based solutions take advantage of the natural functions and services provided by trees, plants, wetlands and microbes. The application of nature-based solutions is called green infrastructure which can provide similar...

Using the past to build the future energy system

January 18, 2018

  Brooklyn Microgrid was the first use of blockchain technology to support neighbourhood-owned renewable energy that I learned about. The platform has allowed homeowners to see their excess solar power to neighbours. They host Let’s Build a Microgrid Community workshops with the goal to revolutionize the way a community thinks about, produces and uses energy in a sustainable way. They...

Urban planners' changing worldview

January 10, 2018

  International Energy Association research confirms that successful urban energy planning is only possible, if energy is integrated in the entire urban planning process. But in many countries, including Canada, consideration of energy issues is still largely absent in the land use planning process. Community energy plans, developed under the leadership of municipal governments, are emerging as a standardized and...

Navigating the Energy Future

November 21, 2017

I was delighted to be asked to introduce Jan Vrins who was the opening speaker at the annual conference of the Association of Power Producers of Ontario. Jan Vrins is the leader of Navigant’s global energy practice. His team is at the forefront of a global energy transformation that is a changing the energy sector into a cleaner, smarter, distributed...

Community Energy: Back to the Future

November 5, 2017

I am heading to the annual QUEST conference which brings together community energy leaders from across Canada. I will be leading a round table discussion with a colleague, Rob Kerr, on how new governance systems are crucial for implementing community energy plans.   While energy decision making has occurred in isolation to urban planning and development for over a century,...

Failure to Launch

October 12, 2017

In the American romantic comedy, Failure to Launch, Matthew McConaughey’s character, Tripp, lives at home and shows no interest in leaving a comfortable life under his parents’ roof. In some respects, this is the tale of local government in Canada. In the movie, Sarah Jessica Parker’s character, Paula, is hired by Tripp’s parents to encourage him to leave the comfort...

Engaging for Positive Energy

October 9, 2017

  Energy regulators, policy makers and academics recently met in Ottawa for the last of three workshops hosted by Positive Energy, an initiative of the University of Ottawa. These workshops have taken aim at the decline of public confidence in energy decision-making, from pipelines to wind turbines. Their work documents several social, value and technological changes that the current energy...

Community Energy in Centre Wellington Builds Resilience

October 3, 2017

Financing community energy projects was the focus of the September's QUEST Ontario Caucus meeting which was hosted by the Region of Waterloo. The Region presented preliminary results of their research into financing mechanisms. They provided a handy summary of mechanisms that included: capital reserves, revolving funds and trusts, loans, debentures, equipment leases, on-bill financing programs, soft loans, local improvement charges,...

Reflections on sustainability

September 23, 2017

I had the good fortune to attend a workshop to talk about the future of sustainability. People joined us from around the world. This naturally led to some personal reflections.  Sustainability is about place. This theme came up frequently during a two-day workshop. This was intriquing to me because I haven’t known anything different. My sustainability work has always been...

Talking Sustainability

September 23, 2017

  Sustainability is the topic of conversation for the next two days; I am attending a two-day think tank in Waterloo. The work of the Bruntland Commission in the late 1980s was my first formal introduction to the concept of sustainability. The Commission’s report, Our Common Future, catalysed many multi-stakeholder conversations around the world. National, regional, sectoral and local Round Tables...

Mainstreaming local energy

July 4, 2017

  Mainstreaming local energy will come in many different shapes and sizes.  Some will be far-reaching like recent changes to Ontario planning legislation which will require local governments to embrace climate and energy policies.  Others will be small tweaks that bring familiarity.  For instance, I have often wondered whether we should have used the term “Local Energy Master Plan” –...

On the path to net-zero communities

June 25, 2017

When some colleagues and I set out to better understand the path to net-zero communities, we quickly understood we were missing something – a clear definition of what net-zero meant. It wasn’t for a lack of definitions – quite the reverse.  There were definitions for building and communities.  While some definitions focused on carbon, others focused on energy.  Sometimes it...

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...