May 22, 2018 5:00 pm

Council committee looks at green grid for Edmonton’s energy needs

Environment Minister Shannon Phillips makes an announcement regarding a solar power rebate program Monday, Feb. 27, 2017.

Tom Vernon, Global News
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Edmonton city councillors on the Urban Planning Committee have endorsed the first steps towards the city running its business with a much lower carbon footprint.

The plan they’re looking at would stretch out over the next dozen years, where all of Edmonton’s energy needs would come from a green grid.

That would mean the 900 buildings the city runs, and Edmonton Transit and its fleet of vehicles, as well as other greenhouse gas-emitting assets like street lights, would all be run from solar and wind power bought from a new growing grid system.

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Further details on the grid will come in a report to city council June 18, said Mayor Don Iveson. “One of the options we’re looking at is some sort of power purchase arrangement for the city. Many school boards, and the City of Calgary and others in the province have chosen to buy directly from 100 per cent renewable sources.”

READ MORE: Renewable energy growing in Canada but solar installations falling behind

Calgary has run its C-Train off that type of grid for the last decade. “People keep asking me, ‘Why don’t we ride the wind the way Calgary does?’ Iveson told reporters. “I’d like it to be not just the train but all of the operations of the City of Edmonton that are run on renewable energy. The costs are coming down so quickly on that — I’m hoping we’ll be able to do that without much of a premium, when you factor in the cost of carbon.”

Committee members were told that there will be a lot of upfront costs, but energy savings could begin in year three.

“There’s an incremental cost but as long as it supports investment in new power infrastructure and helps overall green the grid and improve the market for renewables, I think that’s a reasonable position to take, consistent with what lots of other institutions have already done,” Iveson said.

Coun. Jon Dziadyk was the only one to vote against the plan. He said he’s not comfortable with buying green energy at this time. “There’s a lot of solutions in place to lower greenhouse gas emissions currently without the purchase of green power. I thought it was a bit too aggressive.”

READ MORE: Indigenous investors required in second round of Alberta renewable power auction

However, David Dodge from the city’s energy transition advisory committee said the cheapest wind energy on the market now is as cheap as some building retrofit upgrades.

“There’s quite a range in energy efficiency. Some things are really a no-brainer. Lights are one of them. There’s a range of things you can do. Almost all energy efficiency is good, but now, energy production is right in that realm.”

He said Edmonton is in a better position than Calgary was a decade ago. “I don’t even know what they paid but I bet we’ll pay half of what they paid because the market was so much different 10 years ago.”

The councillors also considered two other options in the city report, a smaller reduction of emissions at 30 per cent and reaching carbon neutrality for all city operations.

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