Canadian communities account for an estimated 60 percent of national energy consumption. Since 1901, the proportion of Canadians who live in urban areas has grown from 38 percent to 80 percent, and by 2020, this figure could reach 85 percent. Meanwhile, the population is expected to grow to about 43 million by 2050, further increasing the impact on the environment. In this context, Integrated Community Energy Solutions offer great opportunities for improving the energy performance of communities, while enhancing quality of life and Canada’s economic competitiveness.
Canadians live in more than 5400 communities. While the communities vary greatly in size and location, they all need energy for transportation, heating, cooling and lighting, as well as to power local industry and commerce.
It is estimated that communities accounted for about 60 percent of Canada’s 2006 energy consumption (see Figure 1Footnote 1) with a relatively equal breakdown among four key sectors: residential buildings, commercial buildings, industry and passenger transportation. The energy profiles of Canadian communities vary significantly on a per capita basis, as illustrated in Figure 2. Energy use from homes and buildings is generally consistent across communities, but there is significant variation in use by transportation and industry.Footnote 2
As illustrated in Figure 3,Footnote 4 under a business-as-usual scenario, community energy use could be expected to increase by about 75 percent by 2050, compared with 2006. This change would lead to a large increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, therefore increasing the challenge of meeting GHG reduction targets.
Integrated Community Energy Solutions (ICES) have been identified as offering some significant opportunities to reduce GHG emissions. However, there is a shortage of studies that have attempted to quantify the full potential associated with their solutions. To address this gap, a collaborative called Quality Urban Energy Systems of Tomorrow (QUEST) commissioned a study that applied the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy’s modelling approach in the Getting to 2050 studyFootnote 5 to assess the potential of ICES for meeting climate change targets. The results, while preliminary, suggest that the potential energy savings and GHG emissions reduction of ICES are promising and “that stringent land-use policy to encourage densification, including constraints on the geographic footprint of cities, specification of densification corridors with fast and reliable transit, and reform of the property tax system to reflect marginal infrastructure building and maintenance costs, has the capacity to reduce direct and indirect urban emissions by approximately 40 to 50 percent in the long run.”Footnote 6
The QUEST analysis was supported by a literature review to assess the potential for ICES in Canada. Highlighted were three Canadian studies that have estimated the potential community-level GHG reductions from aspects of ICES to be approximately 43 percent,Footnote 7 47 percentFootnote 8 and 50 percentFootnote 9 of total community-level emissions. Findings from these studies and others included in the literature review also suggested that emissions reductions could be further augmented by taking advantage of waste, water and waste heat as energy sources.
Community-level studies support these findings. For example, the City of North Vancouver, British Columbia, completed its 100 Year Sustainability Vision in 2008. This initiative explored the feasibility of reducing the community’s GHG emissions by 80 percent from 2007 levels by 2050 and eliminating them by 2107. This was a public, stakeholder-driven process that integrated building, transportation, infrastructure and technology options. A key finding was that close to one third of the targeted per capita reductions could be achieved through community form decisions alone. The study found that full realization could be achievable with complementary policies, technology investments, and greater collaboration among regional, provincial and federal governments.
The results of these studies point to a very significant potential. While work continues to better quantify and realize this potential, the message is clear: ICES could form an integral part of Canada's high-performance energy future and its GHG emissions reduction strategies.