Making Sense of Energy

Is Edmonton’s greenhouse gas strategy ‘full of hot air’?

Back in 2012, the City of Edmonton announced plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by the year 2020. Journalist Paula Simons wrote that “the municipality hasn’t cut its carbon emissions one jot or tittle” in a recent article published in the Edmonton Journal. Could the city’s promises be full of hot air?

In 2008 the city produced about 308,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. In 2015 the emissions totaled about 350,000 tones, not including any emissions coming from the cities public transit system. That doesn’t seem like a productive decrease of greenhouse gases.

The article mentions the fact that the city saw a huge increase of growth and thus more buildings, infrastructure, lights, etc. admittedly drove up emissions. Last week council opted to buy $3.3 million worth of renewable energy certificates (RECs) These certificates show that you’ve paid for the production of one megawatt hour of renewable energy.

“The city isn’t investing directly in an Alberta biomass plant or a hydro dam. It’s buying certificates from Enmax, through a “REC pool” made up by offerings from different Alberta renewable energy producers.” stated Simons.

The $3.3 million spent will give the city ‘credit’ for reducing nearly 130,000 tonnes of CO2 for one year. What about actually reducing the amount of energy the city uses in that year?

“There is a balance of short-term and long-term options, and I’m not sure the City has it quite right yet, commented Chris Vilcsak, President and CEO of Solution 105. “Yes, RECs provide for short-term ‘greening’, but once the money’s spent and the power’s been consumed, we’re back in the same problem spot.”

Some argue it’s not enough to award a company that is already producing green power. In order to actually reduce emissions these big power producers have to completely change their behavior.

“We can do more in the long-term by retrofitting buildings and ‘plugging holes’ as suggested in the Journal article,” said Vilcsak. “Those efforts provide benefits for years into the future.”

If council invested that same $3.3 million in retrofitting buildings, experts say it could reduce carbon emissions by 43,100 tonnes and the that savings would pay for the retrofits in 5 years. The city’s program manager, Jim Andrais, says that alone won’t help the city reach emissions goals. He says RECs should be part of the plan.

“The City ABSOLUTELY has to embrace efforts to not only reduce their environmental impact, but to do so for the long-term. It’s time for our city councillors and officials to step it up!” said Vilcsak.

Read Journal Article here – http://edmontonjournal.com/business/energy/paula-simons-edmonton-greenhouse-gas-strategy-full-of-hot-air