Posted on 18 September 2014
Oil capital takes green u-turn
Oil capital takes green u-turn
Edmonton is the 2014 National Earth Hour Capital of Canada. Over the last five years, the city has taken a green u-turn, with a vision for a carbon-neutral future. Edmonton’s environmental strategic plan The Way We Green includes actions to increase energy efficiency, reduce emissions, and save money, while ramping up plans for renewable energy. The City Operations Greenhouse Gas Management Plan aims to reduce GHG emissions from city operations by 50% by 2020.
Keywords: energy efficiency, fossil fuel, renewables, biodiversity, sustainability strategy
Edmonton is the economic center for northern and central Alberta and central point for Canada’s oil and gas industry, sitting on one of the world’s largest oil, gas, and oil sands reserves and known as the “Oil Capital of Canada”. But it is also known for its strong life-science sector, burgeoning high-tech industry, and exceptional environmental stewardship. It is home to the North Saskatchewan River Valley, Edmonton’s “Ribbon of Green” and North America’s largest municipally-owned linear urban park.
Edmonton has used innovative approaches to protect and manage its urban biodiversity, including incorporating ecological design into new neighborhoods. The city’s ecological network approach to this “biodiversity corridor” aims to protect natural areas as a single, integrated system, and is considered internationally-renowned best practice case in urban biodiversity (see also Berlin
). Behind this work is an active local conservation community, whose input is now becoming visible also in Edmonton’s newer green policies.
Edmonton has implemented a composting program, collection of landfill gases, energy efficient retrofits, construction of new city buildings to LEED silver, light rail transit construction, purchase of green power, greening of its vehicle fleet, community outreach, and financial incentives for green objectives. Yet nearly all Edmonton’s energy comes from fossil fuels, and community-wide GHG emissions haven’t declined significantly since the beginning of the 1990´s, while GHG emissions from city operations have risen about 20% since 2001 (despite a decrease in energy use per capita) due to a tremendous population increase.
The Way We Green
In 2009, Edmonton formulated The Way Ahead, a vision for Edmonton 2040, with input from residents and different stakeholders, aiming to create a change. Strategic plans covering the whole spectrum of sustainable urban development were laid out: finance, environment, growth, livability, transport, and prosperity were covered.
The Way We Green is an environmental strategic plan, a comprehensive and detailed set of actions with the ultimate goals of carbon neutrality by 2040 in city operations, as well as in the wider community. The plan covers sustainability and resilience, healthy ecosystems in land, water and air, energy and climate change, food, and solid waste. Under energy and climate, it calls for a 50% reduction of GHG emissions from city operations by 2020 from the 2008 level, and a 17-20% reduction of community-wide emissions (see also Vancouver
). It lays out detailed action proposals to achieving these goals, including: an energy-efficient built environment; transport-oriented development for an accessible, efficient, and compact urban form; a significant increase in renewables, preferably from local sources of energy; and a modal shift to a sustainable transport system.
City Operations GHG Plan
The City Operations Greenhouse Gas Management Plan details how to reach the 50% reduction of emissions in city operations. The city will begin purchasing power at a premium price from renewable energy sources for the electrical grid, up to 25% by 2020, and will accelerate and improve several existing programs of energy efficiency. The Existing Building Retrofit Initiative will renovate 3% of the city building stock each year to gain a 30% energy-efficiency improvement. The city’s New Building Construction Energy Efficiency Upgrade will improve the energy-efficiency standard for new constructions – to 50% above the national model energy code for buildings (see also Chicago
The conversion of street lighting will be accelerated for scheduled completion in 2017. GHG emissions from decommissioned landfills and from the composting program will be reduced through energy efficiency measures. The Sustainable Fleet Management Plan will green the municipal vehicle fleet through measures such as driver education, vehicle right-sizing, increased use of biofuels, hybrid vehicle purchases, and trailer skirts. Ongoing efforts to double the city’s urban forest canopy by 2090 will also result in an annual small reductions in GHG emissions.
Renewable Energy Taskforce
So far, Edmonton has not launched a big push for renewables, but the strategic plans have laid out a foundation of formulations, goals, and plans to legitimate actions. The city has also launched a Renewable Energy Taskforce, with local professionals from a cross-section of industries and interest groups representing a broad range of stakeholders. The taskforce has recommended actions to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy technologies in the city. Its 2012 report, Shaping Edmonton’s Renewable Energy Future, has several proposals, including: installations in city buildings; removal of legislative barriers; introduction of energy-source labelling of buildings; financial incentives like rebates and subsidies, including feed-in tariffs; and support for community-owned projects.
An example of Edmonton’s dedication to sustainable development is its waste management Centre of Excellence. The Centre is North America’s largest collection of modern, sustainable waste processing and research facilities, and has helped the city reach a 60% diversion-from-landfill rate in its road towards a zero-waste goal (see also San Francisco
). It includes a waste-to-biofuels facility, a composting facility, a materials recover facility, an e-waste recycling facility, and the Centre recovers landfill gas and construction materials, and manufactures grey paper.
The City of Edmonton, City Vision and Strategic Plan, http://www.edmonton.ca/city_government/city-vision-and-strategic-plan.aspx
The City of Edmonton, “The Way Ahead: City of Edmonton Strategic Plan 2009-2018”, http://www.edmonton.ca/city_government/documents/PDF/Revised_2012_Way_Ahead.pdf
The City of Edmonton, “The Way We Green: The City of Edmonton´s Environmental Strategic Plan”, http://www.edmonton.ca/city_government/documents/PDF/TheWayWeGreen-approved.pdf
The City of Edmonton, “Shaping Edmonton´s Renewable Energy Future: Report of Edmonton´s Renewable Energy Taskforce”, http://www.edmonton.ca/environmental/documents/RenewableEnergyTaskForceReport.pdf
The City of Edmonton, “City Operations Greenhouse Gas Management Plan”, http://www.edmonton.ca/environmental/documents/PDF/CityOperationsGHGManagementPlan.pdf
The City of Edmonton, “Our Environmental Initiatives”, http://www.edmonton.ca/city_government/documents/PDF/EnviroInitiatives.pdf
carbonn Climate Registry, City Climate Report: Edmonton, http://citiesclimateregistry.org/index.php?id=312&tx_datareport_pi1%5Buid%5D=288
ICLEI, UNEP, Cities & Biodiversity Case Series, “City of Edmonton, Canada: Planning for a functional ecological network”, http://www.unep.org/urban_environment/PDFs/Edmonton_Final.PDF
ICLEI, Cities & Biodiversity Case Series, “Cities and Biodiversity: Exploring how Edmonton and Montréal are mainstreaming the urban biodiversity movement”, http://www.icleicanada.org/images/icleicanada/pdfs/Biodiversity_CaseStudy_EdmontonMontreal.pdf
Text by: Martin Jacobson