Climate ChangeCommunityEnergy and EnvironmentMaking a difference

May 25th Ward 2 Town Hall Minutes

Saturday May 25th Ward 2 Community Town Hall

Location: Waverley Drive Public School, Guelph

Time: 1:30pm ~ 4:00pm

Attendance: 16 community members plus Evan Ferrari, eMerge Guelph’s CEO, Antti Vilkko, City of Guelph’s General Manager of Facilities Management, and both Ward 2 Councillors

What Happened: On Saturday May 25th, Councillors Goller and Gordon hosted the third Ward 2 Town Hall of 2019. Sixteen community members came out to hear about the City’s plan to convert to 100% renewable energy by 2050, and the community goal to achieve Net Zero carbon by 2050.

The Town Hall began with a presentation from Mr. Vilkko on the City of Guelph’s plans to switch to 100% renewable energy by 2050. Mr. Vilkko’s slide presentation is available online by clicking here. After that, Mr. Ferrari presented on what community members can do to switch to 100% renewable energy, and highlighted some of the supports available from eMerge Guelph to make that happen. Mr. Ferrari’s presentation is available online by clicking here.

Both Mr. Vilkko and Mr. Ferrari referred to the recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which on October 2018, stated that in order to mitigate potentially severe negative effects of global heating on the planet, we must limit human activities that generate greenhouse gas emissions. They agreed that we now have reliable evidence showing that if we keep on business as usual, the climate will continue to change in a way that threatens the lives of millions of species across the world and poses a threat to our way of life here in Guelph.

First Presentation by Antti Vilkko: To achieve 100% renewable energy, the City is first focusing on reducing our energy use. The next step will be to increase renewable energy generation, and if needed, a third step would be to purchase renewable energy credits. Over the last year, since May 2018 when Guelph City Council gave direction to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2050, staff began monitoring our municipal energy use, and identified 106 (yes, a hundred and six) activities across all City facilities (those activities are listed in this report, from pages 96 to 119) that the City has planned, started or completed, which will contribute to reducing our energy use. These actions include switching all City buildings and all non-ornamental street lights to LED in 2019.

The municipality will now develop a Corporate Energy Management System, to coordinate the next steps to reduce our municipality’s energy use and renewable power generation. Mr. Vilkko also explained that the City will be funding an organization called ‘Our Energy Guelph’, which has been tasked with coordinating the community goal of reaching Net Zero carbon by 2050. Our Energy Guelph is currently incorporating as a non-profit organization and will receive funding from the City of Guelph.

Second Presentation by Evan Ferrari: To achieve 100% renewable energy in our daily lives, we must start by reducing the amount of energy we consume. We can’t just add solar panels and wind turbines and hope to continue with our current lifestyles. Mr. Ferrari let us know that eMerge Guelph has a ‘home tune-up’ service, where an eMerge Guelph team member visits your home and helps you identify ways of saving money and reducing your energy consumption. They will provide customized advice that will “increase your homes’ comfort, save money on energy and water bills, while reducing your impact on the environment!’

Mr. Ferrari also let us know that the technology is now here to help us get to that 100% renewable energy goals in our home and work lives. Solar panels are many-fold more affordable and more efficient than they were just a decade ago. We also know that in Canada, we waste two thirds of the energy we produce, and that waste could be prevented. Much of our energy is wasted due to lifestyle choices or lost in transmission from central power-plants to our homes. Mr. Ferrari gave examples of several Guelph families that have drastically cut their energy consumption by retrofitting their homes and making energy conscious lifestyle choices. He suggested that we could become a 100% renewable energy community by taking the following six actions:

  1. Conservation & efficiency – doing energy efficiency renovations and making lifestyle choices that reduce our energy footprint,
  2. Creating a local distribution energy network – by increasing privately owned energy generation (like solar panels), we would bring energy generation closer to where we consume it, and would save a lot of energy currently being lost in transit from far-away power-plants,
  3. Taking advantage of new technology like heat transfer units to heat and cool homes, and using more affordable and efficient solar panels,
  4. Focusing on a local, circular economy – currently about $500,000,000 (yes, that’s a half billion dollars) leaves Guelph every year in the money we pay for electricity, oil and gas. A more local, circular economy where we use mainly electric energy and produces much of the energy we consumed locally would see that half billion dollars staying in Guelph,
  5. Changing our vehicles, homes, businesses and industrial operations to run on electricity, and
  6. Switching to renewable energy for all our energy needs.

To close his presentation, Mr. Ferrari let us know that eMerge is currently focusing on the home energy efficiency visits, encouraging Guelph residents, and businesses to commit to 100% Renewable Energy, and promoting electric vehicles in Guelph. There are nearly 7,500 new vehicles bought in Guelph every year – getting most of those purchases to be electric vehicles would have an immediate and significant impact on the amount of greenhouse gasses being generated in Guelph.

Discussion

After the presentations, the community members present discussed the importance of making the switch to renewable energy, and how the City of Guelph has an important role to play in that change. There was some debate about the timeline and urgency of that change, based on the original goal of 2050, and the new information provided by the IPCC on October last year, that suggested that we needed to achieve those same greenhouse gas reductions by 2035 instead. Overall, there was consensus that both Ward 2 City Councillors should strive to make our municipality achieve 100% renewable energy use as soon as possible.

There was also a discussion about the important role that everyone in Guelph has to help achieve these goals. To put this into context, all of the Guelph Public Transit buses are responsible for about 1.8% of the greenhouse gas emissions generated by vehicles in Guelph. That means that even if Guelph changes its entire bus fleet to electric, the environmental impact would be negligible, unless we get a large number of our community members using public transit and active transportation, and we also switched over the bulk of private vehicles to electric. Similarly, even if the municipality manages to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2050 or even by 2035, the impact to our environment would be negligible, unless the wider community of Guelph, including every home owner, business owner, and institution, also achieves those goals.

Relevant Links

The City of Guelph Climate Change Office – https://guelph.ca/plans-and-strategies/climate-change-office/

eMerge Guelph – https://emergeguelph.ca

Our Energy Guelph – https://www.ourenergyguelph.ca/

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