In Canada, energy used by the multiple sectors at work in communities, from housing to industry, accounts for some 60 percent of our total energy consumption. In most communities, the sectors that make up the "built environment" are largely independent of one another when it comes to energy use. Integrated Community Energy Solutions (ICES) make use of the opportunities that come from treating the built community environment as a system.
What are ICES?
As their name suggests, ICES take advantage of opportunities to improve energy efficiency beyond individual buildings and houses to encompass whole communities. ICES also consider not only buildings, but how energy is supplied and consumed in all sectors including transportation; land-use planning; industry; water management; waste management and others. By taking a more holistic approach to energy supply and demand, ICES provide a more effective way to manage energy to the benefit of an entire community – from using waste heat from industry to heat other buildings to community planning that encourages walking, cycling and use of public transit – and achieve savings beyond those possible by approaching each sector independently.
An ICES community can be a rural area, a neighbourhood or a large city and includes both high- and low-technology solutions. These solutions could include heating buildings and homes with waste heat from industry; situating buildings to make the most of the energy from the sun; more accessible walking and cycling routes; and built-in connections to help emerging low-emission technologies such as plug-in electric vehicles and solar heating gain ground. These are solutions that can be applied to new developments, existing neighbourhoods and even whole regions.
Because ICES can increase energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy, they are seen as a promising new way to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Early studies suggest that ICES could reduce GHG emissions of communities by as much as 40 to 50 percent. More work is currently underway to improve the understanding of the role ICES could play in meeting GHG goals.
Equally as important, the benefits of investing in ICES go beyond increased energy efficiency and reduced emissions, to include more livable cities and a better quality of life for citizens; improved air and water quality; local economic stimulation; reduced exposure to fluctuations in energy prices; and communities that are more competitive and attractive to new investment.