Imagine in the not-too-distant future where the City of Ottawa is 100 per cent powered by clean, renewable energy and nearly all vehicles on the road are electric; producing zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This utopia is not science fiction, but rather an ambitious action plan that the City aims to achieve by the year 2050.
But before we blast too far into the future, let’s go back to the not-so-distant past: April 24, 2019. That’s when the City of Ottawa officially declared a climate emergency and announced that it was ramping up work on its Climate Change Master Plan, its Climate Resiliency Strategy and a special project called Energy Evolution.
The main goal of the Energy Evolution action plan is to develop a baseline analysis of energy supply and demand within the City of Ottawa and collaborate with community partners to advance energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy generation within their own individual areas of control and influence. Hydro Ottawa is one such community partner.
According to the Canadian Federation of Municipalities, roughly 50 per cent of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Canada come from municipalities. That means right here in Ottawa, we have the power to influence significant change over our emissions. By tackling climate change at the municipal level, we can improve our quality of life, help the environment, and save significant money in operation and energy costs.
Based on its GHG analysis, the City of Ottawa identified that approximately 90 per cent of our city’s GHG emissions are from the building and transportation sectors – essentially how we heat and cool our homes and how we get around the city.
With clearly defined targets and strategies, Ottawa aims to reduce GHG emissions community-wide by 43 per cent by 2025, 68 per cent by 2030, 96 per cent by 2040, and 100 per cent by 2050. The City's targets are even more ambitious: to reduce GHGs 100 per cent by 2040. Andrea Flowers, Senior Project Manager Engineering Systems with the City of Ottawa admits that to meet the short and mid-term targets, it will require unprecedented collaboration, investment and action from across the community. Andrea is optimistic, but knows that it will be difficult.
“To meet the targets that we set, the upfront investments over the next 10 years will be the highest,” says Andrea. “But the good news is that our financial analysis shows there will be a net financial benefit to society at large starting in early 2030, probably around 2032, when the net annual savings and revenues generated start to outpace the annual investments required.”
Leading the Way
The transition to zero emissions must include steady and incremental progress, and Andrea states that the City of Ottawa will lead by example. That’s why the City is targeting to move all its fleet and operations to zero GHG emissions by 2040, a full decade earlier than the rest of the City.
“To give you a sense of what that scope and scale means, we’re going to have to phase out almost all fossil fuels like gas, natural gas and diesel,” says Andrea. “We’re going to have to fully retrofit our buildings’ heating and cooling systems and go to zero-emission transportation systems - from our fleet to our public transit.”
To some, this may sound like a story ripped from the pages of some pulp sci-fi magazine, but it was only in September that California Governor, Gavin Newsom, signed an executive order that all new cars and trucks sold in the state starting in 2035 must produce zero-emissions. France, the UK and China are all on similar paths to ban internal combustion engines.
Hydro Ottawa: A Smart Utility of the Future
Andrea says that the Energy Evolution plan addresses the critical need for more electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure in the City. With more than 100 years of grid expertise, managing renewable energy assets, and in the field of energy management, Hydro Ottawa is assisting in many facets of the City’s energy plans, including its EV initiatives.
With one of the components from Energy Evolution’s plan to increase the supply of renewable energy through local and regional production, Hydro Ottawa is excited to play a part in our city’s energy transformation.
To assist in the City’s vision to create a future more sustainable than the past, Hydro Ottawa is already ahead of the curve as Ontario’s largest municipally-owned producer of green power. With 128 megawatts of clean, renewable energy, we produce enough to power 107,000 homes (or one-third of our customers) with our existing hydroelectric, landfill-to-gas and solar installations.
Two of our hydroelectric generating stations across the Ottawa River in Quebec are being refurbished to meet obligations under a new 40-year power purchase agreement to bring additional clean, renewable power into Ontario.
And just this month, we announced our partnership with Zibi and Kruger Products to introduce zero-carbon thermal district energy to the 34-acre site of the Zibi community and Ottawa by forming the Zibi Community Utility.
At Hydro Ottawa, we believe it’s our responsibility to help meet our city’s climate change goals, and our community’s environmental expectations and energy needs. We don’t have to predict the future; we can plan for it using science, data, and by working together.
Andrea encourages residents to get involved, visit the City’s website to learn more about the City’s plans and to sign-up for their newsletter. To hear more about Energy Evolution and our conversation with Andrea Flowers, listen to the ThinkEnergy podcast episode here.