Edmonton city council has decided to put the Blatchford redevelopment project on hold in order for the city to assess green energy options and funding.
The extension will also give the city time to lobby the provincial and federal governments for funding for the highly-anticipated carbon-neutral community at the site of the old City Centre Airport.
City administration has been asked to develop an advocacy strategy to support the development of a renewable energy utility model for Blatchford.
On Wednesday, councillors mulled over two different funding options for putting together a renewable energy utility model for the residential development.
One option would provide 100 per cent renewable energy and require an initial investment of $20 million a year for the first 10 years – or $206.7 million. It would power the area mainly through geothermal energy.
Thought not as costly, the second option would be slightly less efficient at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It would require funding of $20 million a year for five years – or a total of $98.1 million. While much of the power would still be generated by the geo-exchange system, on peak demand days where it is either extremely hot or extremely cold, high efficiency natural gas boilers would be used for minutes or hours per day.
Some councillors expressed concern Wednesday at the potential of a delay and suggested perhaps the city’s emphasis on making Blatchford a green development is coming at too high of a cost.
“I look at it from a realistic perspective now and it’s starting to take longer and longer to do,” Ward 5 councillor Michael Oshry said. “It’s becoming potentially more and more expensive and it is becoming significantly more risky and at some point it becomes, in my mind, ‘Is this really worth the risk?'”
“Yes, it would be great if we did it, be a world leader,” Oshry said. “But being a world leader at something like this is really, really, really risky and if it doesn’t go well, then it’s on the backs of the taxpayer.”
But Mayor Don Iveson said he doesn’t have any intention of reneging on a plan to make Blatchford as carbon neutral as possible.
“We’re still firm on the vision of this being a carbon-neutral community,” the mayor said. “Taking the time to evaluate some of the options and work with other orders of government, I think is – if we’re going to lose a year because of that, it’s a really good reason to take the time to do the work.”
Iveson also said the upcoming provincial and federal budgets will provide the city with a clearer picture of what kind of additional funding the city may be eligible for in order to complete the project.
The Blatchford development is expected to house some 30,000 people once it is completed.
An interim report on the progress is expected to be presented to council in June 2016.
With files from Shallima Maharaj, Caley Ramsay, Global News.