Some thoughts about our Community Energy Initiative

In advance of our important council meeting this coming Monday the 25th, here are some thoughts about our CEI. Thanks for reading- James

Last fall I was very proud to have taken part in the effort to have Guelph sign the Blue Dot Resolution, a nation-wide initiative meant to ensure our right as citizens to live in a healthy environment. Introduced to council by a group of young students concerned about the future sustainability of our planet, the resolution was embraced enthusiastically by the city.  A clause in the resolution relevant this week is this:

“The city of Guelph is proud to be a leader in environmental stewardship. We are continuously striving to improve in a wide range of areas, including water and energy conservation and efficiency; food security; waste reduction; transit and active transportation; and sustainable planning”.

A major way that we are demonstrating that stewardship is through our award-winning Community Energy Initiative, and next week council is being asked to update and revitalize the CEI to make sure that it is going to serve us effectively over the next generation. Simply put the CEI is a commitment to use energy more wisely and to fight climate change. You can learn more about it here:

http://guelph.ca/plans-and-strategies/community-energy-initiative/.

This visionary plan has now been emulated by dozens of other municipalities, who all look to Guelph as leaders and pioneers in this area. This leadership was one of the reasons that Prime Minister Trudeau visited Guelph last week, when he toured a local industry that is doing their part to bring jobs and energy innovation to our city.

Here’s a brief summary of the CEI from the city website:  The Community Energy Initiative (formerly Community Energy Plan – CEP) is Guelph’s commitment to use and manage energy differently, better, than we have in the past. The initiative will also attract quality investment to the city. After all, experts agree that a reliable, sustainable energy supply is and will continue to be a key ingredient in the long-term competitiveness and prosperity of cities.

Guelph’s goals under the plan are to:

  • use less energy in 25 years than we do today
  • consume less energy per capita than comparable Canadian cities
  • produce less greenhouse gas per capita than the current global average.

So why am I telling you this? 

It’s a no-brainer right? We need this!

Well, city council is not as unanimous about its commitment to the CEI as you might think.  The success of this plan takes a long-term vision.  We might not see an economic return for our investment for a number of years. For some that is too long. It might in the short term effect our tax rate. Some around the horseshoe have referred to the CEI’s potential as a ‘fantasy’.

I totally agree that ANY city project needs to be fully accountable and transparent, and accountability is built in to the initiative’s update. What worries me is that while calling the plan a ‘fantasy’ we are denying the reality: that without a comprehensive vision, a map for our future energy management, we will have NO future.  The current federal government is showing a commitment to that future vision by offering substantial funding to municipalities who are showing the kind of leadership they we have shown in the past. I am hearing many concerns from citizens that the ‘fantasy’ label is sticking, and the feds will bypass us when it comes to that financial support. I believe that we should give our electorate more credit than they are sometimes given: we all want affordable taxes, but that’s not all we care about. We want our taxes to help make this the healthiest, most vibrant community it can be.

By supporting an update next week, we can move forward with a robust plan that gives us the sustainability we need, while addressing climate change. I believe that along with a well-defined strategy for measuring the financial outlook for the CEI, we need to consider the triple bottom line here. The social, environmental and health benefits of this plan are incalculable and every bit as important as the economic aspect.

Next week’s staff recommendation includes the establishment of a community-based advisory committee to provide governance, oversight and reporting to our citizens and to council. ( It’s important too to remember that the city is merely a community partner in the CEI. There are many stakeholders who share the responsibility for this venture.) The recommendation includes building in proper oversight for some of the exciting projects generated by the CEI like our District Energy Plan and the GEERS retrofit program.

The update has a cost, of course. The latest estimate is150,000 dollars, of which 50% is offset by existing funding options, so a 75,000 investment to help set the CEI on a path towards sustainability seems like a bargain! The jobs that we can create, the softer footprint we’ll create for our aging infrastructure, the savings we get when our community well-being reduces our health care costs and our reliance on fossil fuels will see a healthy return and provide security and a better quality of life for our children’s children.

eMerge, Guelph’s leading community energy advocacy group, has this to say about the CEI: “Rarely do we get a chance to have a profound impact on the future of our city’s economy – and at the same time – improve our environment. The CEI provides all of us with the opportunity to transform our local economy for the better.  An economy that will focus on putting our neighbours and families to work by investing in using less energy,  using energy more wisely and producing more clean energy alternatives locally. It’s about creating more energy security within our city.”

Next week’s meeting is going to be an opportunity for us to stand together as a community to say that we see the value in a long-term vision, and that we understand that any contribution we make now to this cause is worth it so that we can move towards a diversified economy that makes our community healthier and more prosperous.

Please, if  you support the CEI and it’s update, tell your councillors, your mayor and your neighbours. Come to the meeting, 7 p.m. on the 25th at City Hall to show your enthusiasm for it. Show us that Guelph’s leadership and commitment to our future is not a fantasy.

If you’d like to speak about this at the meeting, you can register by calling the city clerk’s office before Friday morning at 10 to get on the delegates list for a 5-minute presentation.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Some thoughts about our Community Energy Initiative

  1. Patti Maurice

    Thanks for this, James. I have emailed Council.

  2. Mike Darmon

    Excellent thoughts on this James !
    I will be contacting other councillors to support the update to the CEI.

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