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County Council supports Regional Energy Plan in theory


by Sylene Argent

During its regular meeting last Wednesday evening, County Council voted to support the finalization and approval of the County of Essex Regional Energy Plan in theory, with Council directing Administration to initiate implementation strategies listed in the plan.

  The plan was developed with an aim to mitigate climate change impacts, create economic efficiencies, and improve energy performance.

  Essex County Warden Gary McNamara said the Regional Energy Plan is the culmination of 18-months worth of work from a large task force. “The Regional Energy Plan before you tonight is about the future; the future of our environment and the future of our economy, and we need to keep care of them if Essex County is going to continue to be a great place to live.”

  In 2019, the County of Essex and the City of Windsor declared a Climate Emergency. He said climate needs to be a priority in planning. In Essex County, a task force was put together to represent communities, businesses, and utility providers across the region to develop the Regional Energy Plan.

  McNamara said he was proud to be Co-Chairperson of the committee, with Dan Hanson, who represented the construction industry.

  “In 18-months, with the help of staff and consultants, we have produced a plan that will help us reduce our energy consumption and emissions, while ensuring we have a reliable and affordable energy source. It will also create jobs and help our businesses be more competitive,” McNamara claimed.

  He said County Council can take a step forward, by adopting the plan and starting to pursue the strategies it sets out.

  “Let’s face it, status quo is not an option,” he said. “This plan sets ambitious energy efficiency targets and will serve as both a road map and certainly a vehicle to help us achieve them. And, we need to take action for our youth and generations to come.”

  Claire Sanders, Climate Change Specialist, Peter Garforth, of Garforth International, Susan Hall, of Lura Consulting, and Rebecca Belanger, Manager of Planning Services for the County of Essex, provided County Council with an update regarding the status of the County of Essex Regional Energy Plan during the meeting.

  As part of the presentation, the group shared a video that shared the details of the Regional Energy Plan. Around 40 individuals from 30 organizations were a part of the process.

  Information provided in the video noted that in 2019, the County used 52 terajoules of energy, or 270 gigajoules per person. The greenhouse sector accounts for nearly 40 percent of the total energy used in the region, while homes and transportation use around 20 percent each.

  Also in 2019, the residents and businesses in Essex County spent $820M on energy, or around $4300 per person. The majority of those funds go outside the region, where fuels are produced or refined, converted to electricity, then transported hundreds or thousands of kilometres to local homes or businesses.

In the video, it noted the committee is ready to embrace the energy solutions that keep those dollars in Essex.

  In addition, in 2019, the County of Essex produced 2.2M tonnes of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, or 11.5 tonnes per person, which is about five times best practice.

   The plan sets out five priorities that should be completed by the end of 2025, information from the County of Essex notes, including:

• Establishing a governing group to oversee the implementation of the plan, as well as separate entities to oversee key aspects. This includes the formation of a body responsible for facilitating retrofits of up to 80 per cent of homes to make them more energy efficient, a greenhouse growers energy services cooperative and a district energy entity.

• Aligning all county and municipal plans and land use strategies with the goals of the Regional Energy Plan.

• Developing integrated energy master plans for a manufacturing cluster and a net-zero community that uses the same amount of energy as it produces from renewable sources; a bioenergy master plan; and a community-level e-mobility strategy.

• Developing a program to increase energy and climate literacy and action.

• Creating a “smart energy region” by measuring and reporting on progress implementing the plan, as well as ways to improve it over time.

  It was also noted in the video another priority project of the Regional Energy Plan is to create a bioenergy mater plan between the County and City of Windsor and form a greenhouse growers energy services cooperative.

  Administration will report back to County Council on the progress of the implementation of the progress of the priority projects.

  The Regional Energy Plan, it was said during the video, is good for the environment and economy as it proposed an integrated solution to reduce energy use, cost, and emissions. By 2041, the County can reduce greenhouse gases by over 60 percent, and increase energy efficiency by 45 percent and water efficiency by 20 percent.

  “We can return at least $15 billion dollars to the local economy by 2041. We can create at least 1000 jobs by 2025. The [Regional Energy Plan] is our opportunity to ensure new and existing homes and buildings are more efficient, ensure new and existing greenhouses are more efficient, encourage best in practice efficiency in local industry, plan our transportation system to support travel by bus, walking, and cycling, as well as electric vehicles, generate local, renewable energy for heating and power, integrate energy planning with community planning policies, and, finally, support evidence-based reporting to measure success,” Sanders said.           

  The Report to County Council on the matter notes The County committed $75,000 from the Modernization and Efficiency grant funding and received a grant of $90,000 from the Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines to develop the Regional Energy Plan.

  During the meeting, County Council members heard from members of the Windsor-Essex Youth Climate Council, who voiced support for the Regional Energy Plan.

  Connor Sunderland, a first-year student at the University of Windsor and member of the Windsor-Essex Youth Climate Council, said there is no way to better honour the people of the area than to invest in and protect their futures.

  In 2019, County Council declared a Climate Emergency. Without further action and change to how the County spends its funds, he said, the declaration is meaningless.

  “You have the opportunity, here and now, to show current and future voters you will stand by your words and help protect our futures,” Sunderland said.

  Oscar Cormier, Head of Research and Advocacy for the Windsor-Essex Youth Climate Council, added through the Paris Accords, Canada agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030; a number since increased to 45 percent and to reach net zero by 2050.

  “If we want to achieve these, we’re going to have to act fast, as we only have ten-years to make these cuts. Implementing these plans as soon as possible should be of the highest priority if you want to continue having arable land to supply food and liveable land for habitation,” Cormier added.

  Paige Rosebush, also of the Windsor-Essex Youth Climate Council, added energy plans have been implemented in over 400 Canadian communities.

“A large part of the importance of this plan is it focuses on action by the local communities,” she said, adding 60 percent of energy consumption and half of greenhouse gas in Canada are influenced by municipal governments.