Wednesday, October 10, 2018

PowerUp Initiative Seeks to Drive Down Energy Use, Carbon Pollution

What will our city look like in 30 years?  Can we expect to see bike lanes on every major street, and houses covered in solar panels?  Will we continue to burn fossil fuels and emit greenhouse gases at the same levels as today, or will we have made the shift to electricity for transportation and home heating?

Earlier this week, a diverse group of Sudburians came together to wrap their heads around the future of energy in our communities.  It was a part of an initiative known as PowerUp Greater Sudbury. It’s a comprehensive project that will provide direction to local decision-makers about reducing energy use and carbon pollution through the creation of a Community Energy Plan (see: “Residents Invited to PowerUp!” City of Greater Sudbury, September 18, 2018). 

If one message came through loudly and clearly, it’s that there is a massive amount of work to do over the next 30 years to reduce our emissions by 80% - a goal that was established by the City in the 2010 EarthCare Action Plan (see: “2010 EarthCare Sudbury Action Plan,” City of Greater Sudbury).  

Since Greater Sudbury’s population is expected to grow only very slightly over the next 30 years, emissions from most sectors in a ‘business as usual’ scenario are largely going to remain the same as today.  And thanks to greater national fuel efficiency standards, emissions from the transportation sector are expected to decline somewhat.  That will help compensate for the more numerous (and larger) personal vehicles that we can expect to see on our roads over the next 30 years, as the City continues to sprawl outwards.

And sprawl was clearly a concern for participants.  Large dwellings on suburban and rural lots just aren’t as energy efficient as multi-unit dwellings in urban settings.  And the type of built form that’s required to service sprawl encourages the use of more cars.  We know that denser communities that provide residents with options to walk, cycle or take the bus are the way forward to reduce energy use and save property taxpayers money, but the policies of our City that promote sprawl continue to take us in a different direction.

Reducing energy use will save everyone money – whether you’re the City’s vehicle fleet manager, or a homeowner in Levack. There’s a lot that we can all do to reduce our carbon footprints, but two things in particular were highlighted.  The first is already happening: the electrification of our transportation system. That includes personal vehicles and heavy-duty trucks.  Electrification also provides some unique opportunities for Greater Sudbury, as we’ll see the energy-intensive mining sector swap out diesel-powered vehicles for electric ones.  The materials to build the batteries needed to transform our energy sector will come from electric mines.

The second involves retrofitting our existing buildings so that they are more energy efficient. We will reduce energy waste through better insulation.  And as the price of natural gas rises, more of us will opt to replace old gas-powered furnaces with heat pumps that can both cool and heat our homes.  But the goal is a true Net Zero building, and that will mean the building itself will also need to generate its own power, likely through solar panels or small wind turbines.

With the City about to embark on constructing a new arena, and library/art gallery, there’s an opportunity for forward thinking and leadership. Imagine an arena where the rooftop is covered in solar panels instead of seagulls.

PowerUp Greater Sudbury is an 18-month project managed by the City’s Environmental Planning Initiatives section. The project consultant is Sustainability Solutions Group – a worker’s cooperative that has developed numerous community energy and sustainability plans (see: “About,” Sustainability Solutions Group).  Funding is being provided by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Provincial government.  It’s a public process, and the City is looking for your input:

(opinions expressed in this blog are my own and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the views and/or policies of the Green Parties of Ontario and Canada)

Originally published as "May: PowerUp to cut energy use, carbon pollution in Sudbury," in print and online in the Sudbury Star, October 6, 2018.

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