Edmonton Journal

Council approves 20-year plan to cut emissions

Energy use projected to fall by 25% and yield $2.5B in savings


City councillor­s unanimousl­y endorsed an energy plan Wednesday designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions and save residents $2.5 billion.

The energy transition strategy aims over the next 20 years to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases produced in Edmonton by 35 per cent from 2005 levels.

At the same time, energy use per person is projected to drop 25 per cent, saving money and diversifyi­ng the economy.

“This moves us back in a positive direction in a responsibl­e fashion,” Mayor Don Iveson said.

“At a high level, this city is serious about taking ownership of our emissions,” he added.

The policy, which will be fleshed out with input from a community advisory panel, is designed to boost energy efficiency while weaning individual­s and companies off fossil fuels.

By 2035, this should spur such changes as more locally generated power, additional solar panels and larger numbers of electric vehicles, Iveson said.

At the same time, LRT expansion and shorter commuting distances due to increased infill housing should reduce energy demand, he said.

A citizens’ panel gave advice during the two years it took to develop the strategy. By the end of the process, even initial doubters were on board, he said.

“The consensus was not, do we need to do something, but how fast.”

The only serious debate by councillor­s was over the use of tax-funded incentives to promote a market for such devices as solar panels.

City staff said subsidies will be introduced for a limited time along with campaigns to show people the benefits of the new technology.

“We can educate, we can build capacity, but still we will not see the change we need without incentives,” environmen­tal policy manager Jim Andrais said.

A motion by Coun. Bryan Anderson to ensure priority is first given to strategies that don’t need tax subsidies was voted down by councillor­s concerned this would tie the hands of the administra­tion.

“Ultimately, this is going to cost money. It’s an investment,” Coun. Ben Henderson said. “If we don’t spend it now, we will spend it later.”

The suggested budget for the program in 2016-21 is about $120 million.

By 2035, energy savings for building, business and vehicle owners are projected to reach $2.5 billion.

Another $900 million is expected to be saved if the “social cost” of greenhouse gas emissions is factored in.

This figure is based on the value of the carbon dioxide kept out of the atmosphere, which reduces environmen­tal damage.

The city missed its previous target of cutting emissions 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2008, seeing them instead rise about 17 per cent.

The increase was partly blamed on Edmonton’s growing population and economy, but officials say they’ve learned from earlier mistakes.

gkent@edmontonjo­urnal. com

 ??  ?? Mayor Don Iveson
Mayor Don Iveson

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