We've just returned from the Energy Matters summit in Ontario, near Toronto, where a number of speakers from up north and across the pond gave food for thought at this unique event:
Peter Love, Ontario's chief conservation officer, and others from the province presented on its attempt to use a combination of renewables and more energy efficient ways of replacing 80 percent of its power grid by 2020. They've already:
- phased out coal-fired plants and now are developing aggressive energy efficiency programs across industry, government and residential buildings
- started implementing renewables (5% by 2007; 10% by 2010)
- have launched a "standard offer" program to have businesses sell clean power back to the grid
- sent out 800,000 smart meters to better regulate peak demand, during super hot days, for instance
Two congenial representatives of Sweden, Anders Franzen and Magnus Schonning, gave summaries of how that country has substantially reduced greenhouse gas emissions while increasing the nation's GDP.
Sweden is using more local biomass for power, biofuels for transportation and district energy for municipal hot water supplies (Anders' city of Vaxjo, population 85,000, is almost 100% fossil-fuel free). Net result: greenhouse gas emissions in Sweden have decreased by 7 percent between 1990 and 2005 while economic output has increased 36 percent during the same period.
From the Canadian city of Markham, Bruce Ander, presented how district energy is reducing fossil fuel energy use in that city.
Wind powered light rail for public transportation in Calgary, Alberta, was the highlight of Dave Colquhoun's dog and pony show. The go-go economy of Calgary is taking taxes from the fast-growing local energy economy and is putting it back into something that will run clean and non-polluting in the form of its CTrain.
In other big news from the north, Canada's federal government last week announced a $4,000 tax on SUVs combined with a credit for hybrids.
Some quick observations on Toronto: nice public transit system, however dated; cool curbside bike lock mechanisms and plenty of graceful street riders; stylish and large volume recycling/ non-recycling waste kiosks on street corners; nightlife and local businesses were bustling, even on a late Tuesday night. Runs With Kittens rocks!
Toronto downsides: locals say smog is getting worse; no pedestrian crosswalks despite the masses of people on foot at all hours; and poor interconnectedness with regional transit for outlying cities of Mississauga (population 650,000!!!) and Brampton (434,000).