Advancing Smart Energy Communities

March 12, 2015

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I have just returned from chairing my first QUEST Ontario Caucus meeting.

I spoke at the first QUEST meeting in Niagara-on-the-Lake in 2007; Guelph had just approved their Community Energy Plan. In the intervening years, the rapid emergence of QUEST as an effective national voice for advancing Smart Energy Communities has been remarkable. The 8th annual conference in Vancouver was a great expression of the breadth and depth of their national network having successfully engaged all levels of government, utilities, academics, energy industries and academics.

I also spoke at the inaugural meeting of the QUEST Ontario Caucus 6 years ago and it too in short order has emerged as a critical provincial voice for Smart Energy Communities. The clout of the Ontario network is as equally impressive; municipal government members alone represent a population of over 4.5 million people

QUEST Ontario Caucus finds itself at an exciting moment in time.

We are seeing significant leadership by the Ontario government including establishing the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change and Ontario’s Municipal Energy Plan Program as well as renewing Conservation First.

The proposed greenhouse gas reduction targets in Ontario’s Climate Change Discussion Paper can only be met with strong participation of cities.

Cities influence almost 60% of Canada’s energy consumption. Fifty percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings, homes and transportation within our cities and with no action, this will grow. Local governments are responsible for over 60% of Canada’s infrastructure; their capital investment decisions are fundamental to building low carbon and climate resilient infrastructure.

QUEST Ontario Caucus is positioned well to help.

There is a radical transformation occurring in the energy sector in North America. It is being driven by the success of energy conservation and efficiency, new decentralized power and thermal energy sources that are closer to end users (distributed energy), smart networks which are optimizing supply and demand for all forms of energy, and declining costs for alternative energy technologies from supply (e.g. community solar), to distribution (e.g. microgrids) to the system that collect and manage information (e.g. smart meters).

These changes have huge implications for the future prosperity of communities and utilities. Community energy planning provides a framework to understand these changes and to respond strategically. The benefits of getting the right strategy in place are many and include: increased system efficiency, lower system costs, lower energy bills for customers, increased energy efficiency and economic competitiveness, reduced emissions as well as increased system reliability and energy security.

I am thrilled to have the opportunity to support the leadership represented by the members of the Caucus by serving as their chair and to be working with such an exceptional team at QUEST.