January 27, 2015
City hopes new energy plan will help environment while creating $2.5 billion in savings
The city wants to reduce reliance on private vehicles as part of an energy saving plan.
Photograph by: Bruce Edwards , Bruce Edwards
A new Edmonton energy plan calls for big reductions in fossil fuel consumption that would fight climate change and save billions of dollars.
By 2035, the proposed community energy transition strategy wants to cut local emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming by 35 per cent from 2005 levels.
While the scheme requires the city to spend an initial $100 million over four years and possibly more later, this is a fraction of the expected benefits.
After all costs are factored in, building, industry and vehicle owners are anticipated to save $2.5 billion over the next 20 years from lower energy bills.
Those savings jump to $3.4 billion when the social costs of lower greenhouse gas emissions are considered.
“In Edmonton, even if we didn’t reduce one molecule of CO2, the community would still see a $2.5-billion benefit,” Jim Andrais, environmental policy program manager, said Monday.
“It’s valuable. We’re saying there is a strong business case in the numbers we have modelled.”
Officials have been working on the energy blueprint since 2012, including receiving input from a 56-member citizen panel.
The latest draft, set to be discussed by city councillors in March, features 11 actions suggested to make Edmonton sustainable by 2050.
- Reduce energy consumption by 25 per cent per person from 2009 levels by 2035;
- Change behaviour by introducing financial incentives that will eventually be replaced by regulations or market forces. The incentives would push for such moves as better energy efficiency in homes and other buildings, increased use of renewable energy and increased purchases of electric vehicles;
- Set up a board to push the strategy forward;
- Encourage infill housing and transit-oriented development to reduce reliance on private vehicles.
Spending in the first four years, 2018-21, would focus on areas with the biggest payout, such as programs encouraging conservation in homes and commercial buildings.
The city missed its previous target of cutting emissions 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2008, seeing them instead rise about 17 per cent.
The increase was partly blamed on Edmonton’s growing population and economy.
But Andrais said they’ve learned from earlier mistakes. For example, the city is leading by example with such projects as the waste-to-biofuels facility underway at Clover Bar, he said.
The operation is considered the world’s first municipal industrial-scale plant to transforms garbage into fuel.
They’ve also included about 150 specific tactics to achieve their goals, and have more public involvement this time, he said.
Edmonton residents face three main risks relying on coal, oil and natural gas for 95 per cent of the energy they use, Andrais said.
There’s a danger prices could rise in future, making our spread-out, car-oriented society too expensive to sustain.
There are also hazards from severe weather such as thunderstorms caused by rising world temperatures, and from declining air quality.
“This is a risk-management strategy that’s designed first and foremost to protect Edmonton’s quality of life.”
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