Picturing Canadian Communities in 2050

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Imagine the year is 2050. Communities across Canada are now reaping the benefits of the Integrated Community Energy Solutions that they have been systematically implementing over the past 40 years. The federal, provincial and territorial governments have created a supportive environment, which municipalities, developers and other stakeholders have used to achieve an accelerated rate of implementation. By taking an integrated approach to energy supply and demand, communities large and small from coast to coast to coast have achieved extremely high levels of energy performance. These achievements have been critical to Canada’s success in meeting federal, provincial and territorial climate change and energy efficiency targets, and they have led to exceptionally desirable communities for Canadians to live and work in.

In this vision of 2050, communities of all sizes approach energy supply and demand in an integrated and holistic way. A focus on energy efficiency and clean energy is fully ingrained in the ways that communities are planned, designed, built, operated and revitalized. As a result, municipalities and their citizens have realized abundant economic, environmental and social benefits. Attractive opportunities put private investment to work. The governance framework supports Integrated Community Energy Solutions (ICES) at every level.

Communities are also stronger. Reduced spending on energy means that more money stays in the local economy. Efficient local services enhance financial performance. Residents enjoy a higher quality of life. Industry and commerce are drawn to communities by their increased attractiveness.

By 2050, communities are making effective use of local energy sources ranging from on-site renewable energy to waste heat and organic waste, allowing optimal use of the broader clean energy grids. District energy networks, in many cases, distribute thermal energy for heating and cooling, while smart electrical grids manage local energy supply and demand. Energy storage systems help to balance variations in supply and demand for heating, cooling and power.

aerial photo of residential houses with solar panels on their roofs.

Solar energy heats energy-efficient homes using solar thermal collectors, seasonal thermal storage and a district heating system. (Drake Landing Solar Community, Okotoks, Alberta)

 

Local industrial, commercial and agricultural enterprises approach energy in an integrated way, both within their own operations and with the community. Businesses take advantage of waste heat; use clean, renewable fuels as energy consumers; and capitalize on opportunities as energy producers.

Waste is reduced by the wide-scale use of reusable products and comprehensive recycling programs. Organic waste from households, local businesses and farms is collected, converted to biogas, injected into the gas grid and used as fuel for co-generating heat and power as well as for transportation. Residual waste is used to generate energy when appropriate.

In communities of the future, street orientation, building sites and building designs work together to enable the integration of active and passive renewable energy technologies. Through good design and effective retrofits, buildings of all ages exploit the latest energy-efficient technologies and integrate renewable energy technologies. They have high-performance thermal envelopes and, where appropriate, are connected to community energy systems. Residents and building mangers access real-time monitoring systems to optimize their use of equipment and their interface with district energy systems and the electrical grid.

Community members have access to safe, efficient and reliable transportation options, using the best mode for the needs of their trip. In smaller and rural communities, town centres are pedestrian- and bike-friendly, carpooling and mini-shuttles are well organized, and alternative fuel vehicles are commonplace. In larger communities, residents travel within and between neighbourhoods by using a mix of transportation modes. Pedestrian pathways and cycling lanes for shorter trips are seamlessly connected with powered transit through multi-modal hubs. Transit-oriented building and industry development is focused near cores and nodes. Clean energy vehicle refuelling and recharging stations are conveniently situated. Community form makes goods and services available locally and keeps public spaces vibrant and accessible.

image of buildings in downtown Dartmouth Nova Scotia

Renewable air conditioning for office buildings is provided by cold seawater, coupled with cold storage in the rock mass underground. The Geo-Energy Vault allows visitors to see and learn about the otherwise hidden system. (Alderney 5 Energy Project, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia)

 

Across communities of 2050, people make informed energy decisions that are smart for them and smart for the planet. A knowledgeable workforce is supported by the tools, information, policies, programs and regulations they need. Planners, architects, community staff, developers and business leaders evaluate, design and implement ICES that make good sense economically and socially.

Local governments coordinate the implementation of ICES, based on strong business cases for their own operations and long-term value for the community. They are supported by federal, provincial and territorial policies and programs that work together to support long-term energy planning. Community energy objectives are set to ensure community benefits and to contribute to energy and emissions targets at the national, provincial and territorial levels. Established business models provide good value for private investment.

image of community energy centre building in Strathcona County, Alberta

Heat-generating equipment to serve residential and local government buildings is housed in the community energy centre. (Centre in the Park, Strathcona County, Alberta)

 

Land-use regulations give preference to appropriate community form and mixed-use development with good transit access, while property value assessments reflect energy performance. Developers support their applications with energy studies that demonstrate both internal efficiency and community energy integration. Local governments leverage infrastructure investments to improve community energy performance. In larger communities, local governments have the necessary expertise in-house to ensure that ICES thrive. Small, rural and remote communities have access to service organizations and experts who understand their needs and can complement limited but informed staff resources.

Effective performance monitoring and reporting provides comprehensive and up-to-date energy information to designers and decision-makers. Standards for integrative technologies facilitate the broad deployment of successful solutions. Regulation and business models support established technologies and the demonstration, validation and commercialization of new technologies, preparing the ground for the next generation of ICES.

As a result of this sustained and systematic application of ICES, Canadian communities are among the most livable in the world. Their residents enjoy a healthy physical environment; a competitive economy; clean, reliable and affordable energy; and efficient community services. ICES have helped municipalities become stronger financially, enabled businesses to become more competitive and supported Canada in meeting federal, provincial and territorial energy efficiency and climate change objectives.

It is recognized that this vision of 2050 may not be fully realized by every part of every community, but by 2050, ICES concepts can be well-established and their benefits well-known. Each new and existing community may adapt these concepts to its own particular situation and use them to guide planning and operations. While communities may each move at their own pace, there are many incremental steps that can be taken right now to move toward the vision.

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