A new plan to make Edmonton greener

By Maura Forrest

May 7, 2015

Edmonton has adopted a new environmental policy that aims to improve energy efficiency, develop clean energy, and see more people living closer to the city centre using public transit, and driving electric cars.

Last week, the city council voted unanimously in favour of a new energy transition strategy designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 35 per cent of 2005 levels by 2035. The plan would also cut energy use per person by 25 per cent, and would see 10 per cent of Edmonton’s electricity generated locally.

“At a high level, this city is serious about taking ownership of our emissions,” said Mayor Don Iveson in an interview with the Edmonton Journal. “The consensus was not, do we need to do something, but how fast.”

Currently, 95 per cent of Edmonton’s energy comes from fossil fuels, and Alberta produces far more greenhouse gases per capita than any other province.

The strategy focuses on improving energy efficiency in new and existing homes, installing solar panels, building new housing in central neighbourhoods, improving public transit, bike lanes, and car-share programs, and reducing waste.

The program is estimated to cost $124 million between 2016 and 2021, though the plan aims to generate $2.5 billion in savings on energy bills. Funding sources for the program have yet to be determined, but the report “recommends that the City of Edmonton collaborate with the Government of Alberta and other stakeholders.”

Iveson said he would send a draft of the plan to the provincial government.

“They’ve got the resources to make a lot of these things successful,” he told the CBC. “I’d prefer to draw on those rather than property taxes to ultimately implement this kind of strategy.”

Part of the cost will go toward providing incentives and subsidies to attract public support, which sparked some disagreement among councillors.

“If you can get the market to buy in and get to the same place in the same time, why wouldn’t you investigate the potential without providing incentives?” Coun. Bryan Anderson said to the CBC.

Anderson proposed a motion to prioritize initiatives that don’t require subsidies, but it was voted down.

Edmonton missed its last emissions reduction target, which was to cut greenhouse gases to 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2008. Instead, emissions rose by about 17 per cent.

The new plan still isn’t quite as ambitious as those of other Canadian cities, which use 2020 as their landmark year. Vancouver, for instance, aims to reduce emissions to 33 per cent below 2007 levels by 2020. Toronto plans to cut greenhouse gases to 30 per cent below 1990 levels by the same year.



Photo Credit: Evelyn Berg