Our new report in partnership with QUEST and the CEA

Today marks the release of a report looking at the economic benefits that accompany smart community energy planning. This report should serve as a useful Canadian resource at a time when interrelated concerns about municipal infrastructure and sustainable energy, and awareness of the importance of cities in addressing climate change are on the rise. It is part of the Getting to Implementation (GTI) initiative spearheaded by Quality Urban Energy Systems of Tomorrow (QUEST), with Sustainable Prosperity (SP) and the Community Energy Association (CEA) as partners.

Energy is important in local economies. It underlies the activity in residential and commercial buildings, industrial production, and in the movement of people, goods, and services. Concerns about the economic and environmental impacts of how we make and use this energy have never been higher. There are broadening and interconnected momentums to act on climate change, to reduce health impacts associated with energy systems, and to shrink the costs of producing and using energy. And in many ways, energy—and in particular electricity—is trending local. Meanwhile, essential infrastructure is a significant concern in communities across Canada. Reflecting these overlapping infrastructure and climate/energy concerns, two of the top priorities of the federal government are to invest in infrastructure, and to reduce GHG emissions. And just last week, the mayors of Canada’s biggest cities met and discussed these very issues.

The GTI initiative, and SP’s contribution

The Getting to Implementation initiative is all about helping communities to improve how they make and use energy, and as the name suggests, take smart ideas from blueprint to implementation.

A year ago, working with GTI project partners QUEST and the CEA, Stephanie Cairns and I started to synthesize information on the economic impacts of changes to local scale energy planning, based on limited Canadian experience. SP was the natural fit for tackling this part of the GTI initiative, since it required pointing an economic lens at these local energy and environment questions.

Admittedly, this was tough. There is not much by way of useful data on the topic, and assembling what is available into something meaningful for decision-makers required looking to a variety of distinct players in the municipal space. But, drawing on a combination of case studies and economic analysis that has been conducted for some community energy plans, the paper has really come together. It will be a useful resource for those who are making decisions not only on community energy and environment, but also on finance, budgeting, and local economic development. (We’re looking at you, Chief Administrative Officers!)

What we found

The case has never been stronger to increase smart approaches to community energy management. The benefits are broad. Our report is filled with useful observations and factoids that should resonate with households, public officials, and businesses alike in communities throughout the country. For example, did you know that:

1. Over 50% of the Canadian population live in a community with a Community Energy Plan? Community Energy Plans provide the pathway for communities to improve the ways that they make and use energy
2. In London, Ontario, of the $1.6 billion spent community-wide on energy in 2014 only 12% stayed in the local economy? Community Energy Plans help recirculate money spent on energy within a community and its region.
3. Community Energy Plans help to make communities more futureproof to the risks of rising energy costs from potential carbon emissions pricing and energy price volatility?
4. Investing $237 million on low carbon actions in Edmonton over a three year period could lead to $3.4 billion in savings by 2035?

Our report is full of useful information like this. It bolsters the case for smart energy planning in communities across Canada even if they’re already aware of these issues, and wakes up others that are not. Community energy plans deliver results because they help communities overcome the challenge of coordinating energy across different sectors of the local economy, and among energy users and producers alike.

Tonight, if you are near Ottawa-Gatineau, we encourage you to attend the launch event. If not, read through the report. Again, community energy planning effects everyone, and decisions made today can have a big impact on the financial and environmental well-being of a community moving forward.

Read the report: http://gettingtoimplementation.ca/category/resources/publications/

Tonight’s Ottawa event: http://gettingtoimplementation.ca/event/valueproposition/