Local Energy Distribution Vancouver, Guelph, Connecticut

A February report describes the development of the low-carbon Neighbourhood Energy Utility (NEU), which uses a hybrid system of sewage heat recovery (SHR) backed up by natural gas boilers to deliver thermal energy to 24 buildings in the False Creek area of Vancouver. The opportunity arose from the redevelopment of former industrial land into a mixed-use community- a highly capital-intensive project which generated approximately 50 FTE jobs over 3 years of construction, and has resulted in 3.5 highly-skilled engineering jobs in the operational phase. Although the job creation impact is small because of the small scale of the project, author Marc Lee maintains that it is important as an example of public sector innovation which challenges the paradigm of centralized energy distribution, and which could be replicated by other cities. See Innovative Approaches to Low Carbon Urban Systems: A Case Study of Vancouver’s Neighbourhood Energy Utility, published by Economics for Equity and Environment as part of their Future Economy Initiative.

Guelph, Ontario was recently profiled in “Community and Energy in Guelph: Environment and Economy in Partnership” in Engineering Dimensions (Jan/Feb 2015), which briefly describes Guelph’s Community Energy Initiative, begun in 2007. More recently, the Guelph District Energy Strategic Plan explains the concept of distributed urban energy systems, and includes case studies from Mannheim, Copenhagen and North Vancouver. The Guelph plan envisions a system which would supply at least 50 per cent of the heating needs of commercial, institutional and industrial facilities as well as residential dwellings.

In Connecticut in December 2014, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection announced a study to evaluate the merits of distributed energy. In response, a working paper by Jeremy Brecher of the Labor Network for Sustainability discusses the monopoly power of electrical utilities and makes seven proposals to reform a system to reduce GHG’s and be worker- and community-friendly. Connecticut’s Electric Utilities: Time to Revise the Model specifically proposes that the ownership of energy distribution be transferred from private utilities to consumer-owned co-operatives, municipal or state-owned companies, or “other alternatives”. And for a more general vision of some of those alternative models, read the EnergyVision document, A Pathway to a Modern, Sustainable, Low Carbon Economic and Environmental Future by the Acadia Center, released February 15.

Provincial Updates, including the Premiers Agreement on a National Energy Plan

As the annual Premiers conference ended on August 29, Canada’s premiers announced a reinvigorated Canadian Energy Strategy (CES), a shared vision and set of principles emphasizing environmental responsibility, a diversified, climate-friendly energy and clean technology sector, and a robust, lower-carbon economy utilizing carbon pricing.

A driving force at the Premiers Conference may have come from Ontario Premiers Kathleen Wynne and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, who had agreed to revive the Ontario-Québec partnership at a bilateral meeting one week earlier. The central Canadian bloc will increase economic and energy integration between the provinces and advocate for national progress on climate change.

Reaction to the Energy Strategy announcement from Keith Stewart of Greenpeace provides historical context to the Premiers’ meetings, and laments the failure of the federal government to contribute meaningfully to the development of a coherent, effective national approach.

Yet Canadian provinces have made uneven progress on their climate action plans, according to monitoring reports released over the summer. In Alberta, the Auditor General’s report stated that the province lacked a plan to meet its goals. British Columbia has achieved its first interim target of a 6% emissions reduction below 2007 levels by 2012, largely due to government policies, including its well-regarded carbon tax. The Ontario Environment Commissioner reported that Ontario will meet its 2014 target (a 6% reduction in emissions below 1990 levels) largely because of the shutdown of the province’s coal plants, but it will miss the 2020 target because so little else has been done. In New Brunswick, the Climate Action Plan 2014-2020 document reports that New Brunswick’s GHG emissions declined by 17 per cent between 2005 and 2010, thus meeting its goals for 2012. A new plan establishes provincial GHG emissions reduction targets of 10 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 and 75 to 85 per cent below 2001 levels by 2050.

LINKS:
The Canadian Energy Strategy and premiers’ news release are available at:

The Ontario news release on partnering with Québec is available at: http://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2014/08/quebec-and-ontario-partner-to-strengthen-central-canadas-economy.html?utm_source=ondemand-multimedia&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=p

 Comments from Keith Stewart of Greenpeace are available at: http://www.greenpeace.org/canada/en/Blog/provinces-leave-harper-increasingly-alone/blog/50444/

  A Letter to the Ottawa Citizen by Mark Winfield and Pierre Olivier Pineau provides insight into  Ontario’s and Quebec’s  electricity markets at: http://marksw.blog.yorku.ca/2014/06/11/ontario-quebec-electricity-and-climate-change-time-for-a-new-relationship/

 For a summary of the energy-related policies in Ontario’s July 2014 Budget statement, including the Industrial Electricity Incentive program to promote job creation, see the Gowlings Newsletter at: http://www.gowlings.com/KnowledgeCentre/article.asp?pubID=3675

Alberta Auditor General’s report is at: http://www.oag.ab.ca/webfiles/reports/AGJuly2014Report.pdf, with a Pembina Institute analysis at: http://www.pembina.org/blog/auditor-generals-scathing-review-ups-pressure-to-improve-albertas-weak-climate-policy

Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner’s report, Looking for Leadership: the Costs of Climate Inaction is at: http://www.eco.on.ca/index.php/en_US/pubs/greenhouse-gas-reports/2014-ghg-looking-for-leadership

  In British Columbia, Climate Action in British Columbia Progress Report 2014 is at: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/cas/pdfs/2014-Progress-to-Targets.pdf.

The Pembina reaction to the report is generally positive at: http://www.pembina.org/blog/bc-climate-action-plan-2