Transatlantic Urban Climate Dialogue: Seeking Integrated Community Energy Solutions

Today, I was thrilled to showcase our Community Energy Initiative at the Transatlantic Urban Climate Dialogue  fourth workshop.

Mayor Farbridge with elected officials

(From the left: Martin E. Nohe, Coles District Supervisor, Prince William County; Mayor Karen Farbridge; Bernd Tischler, Lord Mayor of Bottrop and Bob Lazaro, Mayor, Town of Purcellville.)

My welcome speech to the participants:  

• Good morning!

• Building a sustainable energy future and addressing climate change are amongst the most urgent global issues of our time.

• We are making history today as we continue a dialogue that seeks integrated community energy solutions to these global challenges.

• I am pleased to welcome you to the Transatlantic Urban Climate Dialogue.

• I am also delighted to see other members from our last meeting in Northern Virginia.


• I would like to welcome our international visitors.

• In particular, a warm welcome to the elected officials who have joined us today.

o From Germany:

• Bernd Tischler, Lord Mayor, Bottrop Innovation City

o From North Virginia Regional District:

• Bob Lazaro, Mayor, Town of Purcellville

• Marty Nohe, Supervisor, Coles District Supervisors on the Prince William County Board of Supervisors

• Thank you Frank Valeriote, Member of Parliament for Guelph, for taking time out of your busy schedule to attend today.

• I would also like to acknowledge that we have:

o Key staff from our local utilities

o I particularly want to welcome Guelph Hydro Electrical Systems Inc. and staff from Envida Community Energy, Guelph Hydro’s unregulated affiliate – both critical partners in the implementation of the Community Energy Initiative.

o individuals from other Ontario municipalities that are developing their own energy futures.

o leaders from the public and private energy sector in German, Canada and the United States.

o members of the Mayor’s Taskforce on Community Energy Initiative

o representatives from Guelph’s many community groups who have committed to supporting the goals of the Community Energy Initiative.

• On behalf of the City of Guelph, thank you for leadership, providing our mandate and for joining us today.

• We would also not be here without our partners and sponsors.

• The Project is supported by the Transatlantic Program of the Federal Republic of Germany as part of the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology

• In addition, I would like to recognize additional partners and sponsors:

o Free University of Berlin

o Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Urban Studies and Planning

o Northern Virginia Regional Commission

o The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation “Cities and Climate” Network

o Virginia Tech University’s Metropolitan Institute

• And finally thank you to the staff from the City of Guelph, Guelph Hydro Inc. and the Free University of Berlin for doing an amazing job in organizing this Dialogue.


• This is the fourth Dialogue.

• Two workshops took place in Germany, one in the U.S. and now Guelph is proud to host the fourth workshop focusing on Integrated Community Energy Systems: Sustainable City Building, Competitiveness and Economic Development.

• This Dialogue has proven to be an excellent opportunity for us to deepen understanding about shared transatlantic challenges with local energy and climate policy development and implementation.

• I am pleased to learn two more international workshops are being planned.


• I have been asked to speak about the importance of integrated community energy planning to my community’s future.

• Managing our community’s energy future is foundational to achieving

o our vision to make a difference

o our mission to build an exceptional city by providing outstanding municipal service and value

o our mandate for proud, progressive and pragmatic city building

• The Government of Ontario announced last week that communities will be engaged in regional energy plans. I quote from their release:

Through strong public consultation, regional energy plans will lead to better decision making – so that future electricity generation contracts place energy infrastructure in the right location from the beginning.

• That’s right. Appropriately integrated into our communities to enhance the sustainability and resiliency of local energy system.

• Consultation is critical to ensure distributive, integrated and system-based decisions are made.

• This was where we started in developing Guelph’s Community Energy Plan in multi-stakeholder gatherings just like this one today.

• A broad consortium, that included the City, utilities, business and industry, Provincial Government, University of Guelph, local school boards, community groups and individuals, was engaged, along with a consultant with international experience who insisted we plan in a systems-based way.

• We have maintained and broadened that collaborative approach as we implement the Plan, with a Mayor’s Task Force on Community Energy.

• And our current governance model will change, as we gain greater clarity on the governance model required to sustain the implementation of the Community Energy Initiative and as our progress as a community also informs those governance needs.

• Our progress has been supported by many. So sharing our journey has been central to how we work.

• The Transatlantic Urban Climate Dialogue is one expression of that principle of sharing.

Overview of fundamental goals of the Community Energy Initiative

• Our commitment to use and manage energy better is reflected in our Community Energy Initiative.

• Our goal is to attract investment to our city that builds a sustainable future for our community.

• Experts agree that a reliable, sustainable energy supply is, and will continue to be, a key ingredient in the long-term competitiveness of local businesses, and the prosperity of all cities.

• Guelph’s plan goes deeper by addressing four cornerstones of our energy systems:

o Local generation with solar and combined heat and power.

o Local sustainable transmission with smart grids and district energy

o End-use efficiency with density-based planning and conservation and demand management

o Transportation and urban management

• These elements are highly interactive and only work towards achieving the targets in the Community Energy Plan when embraced as a whole.

• There is a role for every sector – government, energy industry, commercial and business, educational and residential.

• Driven by a strong desire to make a difference on energy use and energy efficiency, we have set ambitious but attainable goals for our community.

• We are committed to using less energy and producing less green house gas emissions in 25 years than we do today even though our population is expected to grow by 50,000.

• Our Second Annual Energy and Emissions Report shows we are making progress and trending in the right direction.


So, what have been our key progress markers to date?

• I would like to highlight successes in the first 5 years.

• The link to local economic development, growth and developer investment is tangible. We are integrating energy goals into our planning tools – our Official Plan and Secondary Plans – allowing us to effectively engage our development and building industries.

• Already, a growing number of local developers are committing to thermal energy in their designs and publicly declaring their support for this long-term energy infrastructure. Our early district energy start up is emerging as a joint venture between city facilities and the private sector with Envida Community Energy as the initial project developer.

• Indeed, our thermal energy business is a unique offering increasing Guelph’s competitiveness in attracting and retaining business.

• While struggling as a result of provincial policy uncertainty, we have seen the growth of a solar cluster in Guelph, expanding the economic benefit to as many as 1,000 jobs.

• Landing Canadian Solar which contributed to job creation in this sector, is one of our proudest achievements.

• At City Hall, we continue to integrate the Community Energy Initiative and its goals into the way we do business.

Our Corporate Energy Management Strategy is targeting $11 million in avoided energy costs over 10 years and, based on current assumptions, $80 million in 20 years.

• The Community Energy Division is now part of an expanded departmental mandate – Finance and Enterprise – alongside Downtown Renewal and Economic Development.

• Indeed, the Community Energy Initiative is a cornerstone in our economic development strategy – the very theme of our workshop

Moving forward:

• As we work to meet our goals, we need to aggressively tackle two major aspects of a fully integrated community energy plan.

• We know that our German and American friends have considerable experience in energy planning and conservation. We look forward to learn from your experience as we design community-based energy conservation and efficiency programs.

• Guelph enjoys a great deal of community passion on energy and I would like to acknowledge the significant support from our partners – Guelph Hydro Inc, Guelph Environmental Leadership, Project Neutral, Transition Guelph and Union Gas.

• The second area we need to tackle is thermal energy networks that improve efficiency and provide alternative fuel opportunities.

• 50% of our energy needs are thermal. The City is in the final stages of a very comprehensive, long term thermal energy strategy.

• Further, we represent a growing large market for community based thermal energy systems in North America.

• Often we are asked “why can’t we use energy like they do in Germany” where per capita energy use is at least half what it is here. Through this Dialogue, we are finding useful answers to that question and the challenges it represents.

• Thank you for attending and again, welcome to our German and American visitors.


About Karen Farbridge

An unwavering change maker seeking a just, democratic and sustainable world.

View all posts by Karen Farbridge

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