On June 6th 2017, as Chair of the Infrastructure, Development and Enterprise Committee, I introduced an agenda item for council discussion on Exploring Pathways to Transition the Corporation of Guelph to Net Zero and the Electrification of our Corporate Transportation Fleet.

I’m pleased to report the recommendations received unanimous support from council.

Below, please find my speaking notes and video. 

Council, Guelph’s Community Energy Initiative (CEI) is currently undergoing an update through the leadership of the Community Energy Task Force. In the rapidly evolving fields of energy conservation, low carbon, battery storage and renewable energy technologies, the Task Force has been given a broad mandate to explore strategies for facilitating a more rapid adoption of these technologies throughout our community and local economy.

Separate from the CEI update however, is our own Corporate Energy Management Policy (CEMP), which is overseen by our newly formed climate change sustainability office and has a straight forward mandate on energy: Use Less, Make More, Use It More Wisely and Reduce Costs.

While honorable, council I believe (just like the CEI), this policy could use an update.

Let me expand.

For many years the driving force behind taking action on climate change has largely been reliant on a value based or moral imperative argument. I understand this from an environmental perspective and I believe these values need to be reflected in policies at all levels of government.  Today however, I am becoming increasingly convinced that the speed in which our larger economy is moving in this space, there are now very strong fiscal arguments to moving in this direction as well.

I’ll cite the example of water conservation in Guelph as a great case study for an Ecofiscal business case approach to conservation. An approach that’s good for the environment, good for our local economy, and good for saving us money.

That’s the “common currency” approach that I’d like to bring to the corporate energy file.  I believe all residents should see their values reflected in these policies, whether they be environmental, fiscal, or social. I believe this common currency approach will lead to broader support and less polarization in this area.

To illustrate “common currency”, first I’ll speak to reducing emissions.  

It’s commonly understood that the electricity generation mix in Ontario is now over 90% free of carbon based greenhouse gas emissions. With a clean generation grid, we now must focus our attention on the next big gains in emissions reductions. Those being, the 35% of our provincial emissions coming from the transportation sector, and the 19% coming from buildings. These two sectors alone account for 54% of provincial emissions and represent the greatest room for improvement in Ontario. For Guelph’s part, aligning our Corporate Energy Management Plan with actions in these sectors is what this recommendation seeks to achieve. 

Secondly, I’d like to speak to reducing costs.

In 2017 our corporate utility bill is expected to surpass $10M dollars and our corporate transit fleet will have a total fuel cost of almost $4M. Now, with existing conservation and electrification technologies already in existence, I’m confident that there are pathways to reduce these budgets by 40-70% in some cases, and apply the savings annually to other needed areas of spending (infrastructure, housing, lower taxes). And I’ll note, this transition is already occurring globally.

India, has just announced they will be transitioning to 100% electric vehicle sales by 2030. Reducing their national emissions by 37% but also, reducing their national energy costs by $60 billion dollars (by reducing their countries dependence on foreign oil import and keeping that money in their domestic markets). Further the City of Vancouver has also recently endorsed a Zero Emissions Building Plan to be implemented by 2030, which again focuses on the fiscal returns on investment, while reducing emissions. And finally, a little bit closer to home, the City of Windsor has recently begun procuring 100% electric city buses.

In short, the cost curve on these technologies is upon us. So yes, the moral imperative exists, but (if done correctly) the business cases also exist and will appeal to the broader “common currency” approach our residents are looking to support.