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London’s JPII Catholic Secondary School becomes Canada’s first carbon-neutral school

Officials join a ribbon cutting ceremony outside of John Paul II Catholic Secondary School to mark the school's newly minted carbon neutral status. Andrew Graham / Global News

A high school in east London, Ont., has become Canada’s first to reach a self-sufficient, carbon-neutral status.

Officials marked the occasion with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday outside of John Paul II Catholic Secondary School (JPII).

Read more: East London high school to become Canada’s first carbon-neutral school

JPII’s carbon-neutral status is the result of a two-year, $9.7-million transformation that included the installation of 2,700 covered carport solar panels, a 2.2-megawatt hour electrical storage system and a geothermal heating and cooling system.

According to the London District Catholic School Board (LDCSB), this brings JPII’s annual greenhouse gas emissions to nearly zero and reduces baseline electricity costs by 68 per cent.

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The federal government contributed $4.8 million to the project through Natural Resources Canada (NRCan).

London North Centre MP Peter Fragiskatos says the project received federal funding because of its “groundbreaking nature.”

“It’s the first project of this kind in all of North America and it’s already serving as a model,” Fragiskatos said.

“A school is already being retrofitted in the same way here as John Paul in Sudbury, and I want to see this, of course the federal government wants to see it as well, across the rest of Canada.”

JPII’s carbon-neutral transformation was built and will be operated by Ameresco.

The company’s vice-president of asset and advanced technologies, Jim Fonger, says the Sudbury retrofitting that follows in JPII’s footsteps is in the “initial stages.”

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to announce that at some point in the near future,” Fonger said.

“We have to deal with our carbon problem … these are the early projects that show it can be dealt with and that we can get on with it if we’ve got the mindset to do that.”

Read more: COP26 — Trudeau says world needs a ‘standard’ for pricing carbon. What might that look like?

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Grade 13 JPII student Sarah Bedor was involved in the project’s unveiling in 2019 as a member of the school’s EcoSchool Team.

“I think it was this deep sense of satisfaction and pride to know that I was part of something so big,” Bedor said of her reaction to seeing the work completed.

“It’s on a global scale at this point, it’s not just about London, it’s just about us, it’s about everybody and the future.”

Bedor added that seeing the project’s daily progress for two years as she attended classes gave her hope about tackling climate change on a worldwide scale.

“Alongside the fact that it’s a bit new to go to school and see all the solar panels, it’s also almost societal, it’s integrated into the students now, it’s something that we’re more aware of because we have to see it on a daily basis,” Bedor said.

“It’s not now a concept about electricity … it’s tangible.”

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