Invisible wasted energy

September 29, 2015

Our homes waste a lot of energy.  That hurts our pocket books.  It also hurts the environment. The first principle of a Smart Energy Community is conservation and efficiency – “if you don’t need it, don’t use it”.  The problem is that you can’t see wasted energy – not like a leaky faucet. To address this problem, a start-up company...

Places to Grow - 10 years later

September 28, 2015

I was interviewed last week for a documentary on the 10th anniversary of provincial Places to Grow legislation. Many communities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe had been expressing their aspiration to grow in a more compact and sustainable way but it wasn’t until Places to Grow and the Growth Strategy came into effect they were given the planning tools to...

The invisibility of good public policy

September 23, 2015

When Lee Picolli of Fusion Homes sent me this photo to show that ground had been broken on their Metal Works project, I was very happy for him and his team.  I know there was a lot of effort to reach this milestone. I was also reminded of the invisibility of public policy – public policy which in this case created the...

Sustainability goes beyond green

September 21, 2015

I am always interested in projects that take a broad view of sustainability because it not only means healthier and more vibrant communities, it promotes more creative thinking. Blatchford is being billed by Edmonton as the world’s largest sustainable community.  The vision for the 217-hectare site will take 20 to 30 years to build and will house 30,000 people.  The goal...

District Energy the Clear Choice for Colwood and Capital City Centre

September 1, 2015

Terrific to see the integration of energy planning into city building in Colwood on Vancouver Island.  This is a community that has made the shift in thinking it takes to embrace district energy and understand its opportunity for future generations.

District energy systems growing in Canada

August 31, 2015

Many European communities, particularly after the oil crisis in the 1970s, began to improve energy efficiency, reduce reliance of imported fossil fuels and make better use of local and renewable fuel sources by encouraging local energy production with district energy. For example, Copenhagen today meets 97% of the city’s heating needs with district energy. A recent inventory of district energy systems in...

When electricity customers become a distributed energy resource

August 19, 2015

New technologies are turning electricity customers into a distributed energy resource and that is changing how we view the electricity grid. While some view the growth of distributed generation as a threat to electric utilities others see an opportunity. It is true that new technologies that promote conservation and efficiency and distributed generation are challenging the financial sustainability of electric distribution...

Does Sweden have skeptics?

July 15, 2015

I wonder if Swedish newspapers still have columnists speculating on whether climate change is real or not.  This week, a Globe and Mail columnist referred to climate change as “as unfortunate by-product of progress, one that may or may not cause serious problems down the road”. If they do, it doesn’t seem to distract them – or Scandinavia in general. Krisianstad...

Three recommendations for Ontario's Climate Strategy

July 8, 2015

I was also asked, as part of my participation in the Ontario Climate Change Lab, to provide three recommendations for inclusion in Ontario’s Climate Strategy related to cities and municipalities. Here were my recommendations: Raise the bar on energy plans. Mandate and support cities to double their primary energy productivity in 20 years using community energy planning as the framework...

Ten Reasons Why Cities Must be Part of Ontario’s Climate Strategy

July 7, 2015

I was asked to present as a part of a panel at the Ontario Climate Change Lab yesterday.  I started with 10 reasons why cities and municipalities must be part of Ontario’s Climate Strategy. Climate change is serious. It will require both individual and collective action. No one gets a pass including cities and municipalities.  There just isn’t the time....

Cities as Global Actors

June 29, 2015

In addition to meeting with counterparts from Italian cities last week, I had the additional good fortune to connect with colleagues from Germany and the U.S. to discuss how cities are responding to the energy transformation. The audio recording of the panel presentations and discussion have been made available.  

#OpenGov - Integration

June 21, 2015

Taking the time to integrate the principles of Open Government into daily practice is important to drive the transformation to the digital age.  In Guelph this has included: a Civic Innovation Lab which will serve as a testing ground for new ideas convening interdisciplinary teams of policy makers, funders, citizens, service providers, business and labour to enable those with firsthand...

#OpenGov – Walk the talk

June 20, 2015

Open Government – the transition to the digital age – is a tremendous platform to engage public sector workers.  Your leadership – both elected and appointed – better be impeccable with their word and deeds or the naysayers and doubters – expected in any change management process – will have a field day snuffing out every bright light in your organization. This...

#OpenGov – Practice is messy

June 19, 2015

Practice makes perfect?  Perhaps.  But first it makes an unholy mess. A lesson for governments wanting to “go digital”? Practice disruption – often. Practice disruption even though you work in a fish bowl – knowing full well how easy it is for others to have an opinion when they have no responsibility – or accountability.  Do it anyways. Providing an...

#OpenGov – Beyond compliance

June 18, 2015

Compliance is the enemy of accountability.   Once you tick a box, your responsibility ends.  You are safe.  It is “compliance” that make a veteran prove annually that he lost his legs in order to receive benefits.  That is not the fault of the person ticking the box – it is the fault of the system based on hierarchies and silos. Open...

#OpenGov – Local disruption

June 17, 2015

As the song lyric says, “video killed the radio star”.  Incremental change is not new but the scale of disruption being caused by the emerging digital age is something different altogether. Shedding the tools, systems and thinking of an industrial era would be hard enough if it was just an internal exercise for local government. Institutions have drawn comfort from holding information...

#OpenGov - Early Trials

June 16, 2015

Guelph was practicing aspects of its digital age strategy (Open Government) long before a complete framework was built. In 2002, an innovative community engagement process was launched.  The community was invited to co-produce a set of sustainability principles to guide municipal planning.  These principles have since been integrated into the City’s growth plans. The public was asked to participate as...

#OpenGov - More than that

June 15, 2015

Open Government is what we have called Guelph’s strategy to adapt our local government to the digital age. We may need a new name before we are done. Too often it is mistaken for just more government transparency while open data enthusiasts see it as paving the way to new sources of government data. Open access to information, sharing rather...

#OpenGov - Let's Get Digital

June 14, 2015

I can take a picture of a cheque and deposit it instantly into my credit union account using my smart phone. The technology that permits this convenience is remarkable – and only a few years ago would have been inconceivable to most of us. More remarkable is the social transformation underway, which lies behind the technology, as we shift from the industrial...

Energiewende on the ground

June 6, 2015

A big learning to share in June from my participation in the Transatlantic Urban Climate Dialogue (TUCD) was getting to see how Germany’s national policy Energiewende (energy transition) was being implemented at the local level. Energiewende is the transition by Germany to an energy portfolio focussed on energy efficiency, thermal and renewable energy and sustainable development – the backbone of community energy planning.  Germany’s long-term goal is...