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Canada's New Reality - Smart Energy Communities


By: Brent Gilmour, MCIP RPP, Executive Director, QUEST

Communities account for nearly 60 percent of the country’s energy use and over half of all greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). In the words of Michael Harcourt, QUEST’s Chair, “Communities are the fundamental solution for reducing GHGs and are the key partners for enabling the federal, provincial and territorial governments to achieve their GHG and energy objectives.” 

Just over nine years ago, QUEST - Quality Urban Energy Systems of Tomorrow -  identified the importance of changing energy thinking, and the need to shift the focus from upstream energy and central power generation to the downstream – the end-user – in an effort to better manage our energy use and to effectively reduce GHGs from our communities.


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As Ken Ogilvie, Board Member of QUEST suggests, “This resulted in much more than collaboration it initiated a national movement and engaged a network of leaders across Canada supporting the adoption of a sustainable and integrated energy systems approach, as opposed to just a singular focus on GHG reductions.”

An instrumental part of the movement was the establishment of QUEST’s policy and technical principles to guide the effective implementation of Smart Energy Communities across Canada.

The principles have stood the test of time, having been referenced by the Council of Energy Ministers, and informed thousands across Canada to work towards a more sustainable, affordable and resilient community while reducing GHGs. Today, QUEST remains committed to changing the way Canadians think about energy use in communities and the opportunity for GHG reductions.

Bringing Smart Energy Communities to Life

Increasingly, the actions of communities across Canada are critical to meeting federal, provincial and territorial objectives for reducing energy use and meeting GHG targets. However, energy use is a complex issue for communities, intrinsically interlinked with their current and long-term economic, social and environmental priorities. Traditional energy planning involves matching energy demand once community planning decisions are already finalized. As a result, energy systems are often designed and developed after energy needs -such as for heating, cooling, power, transportation etc. - have been established, leaving little opportunity to reduce the need for energy in the first place.


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QUEST is championing the reverse of this approach through the development of Smart Energy Communities, where decisions related to land-use planning, infrastructure for water and wastewater, waste management, personal mobility, goods movement, and building design are considered upfront and become opportunities to integrate and enhance the efficiency of energy use at the community level from the outset.

Fundamentally, Smart Energy Communities improve energy efficiency, enhance reliability, cut costs, and reduce GHGs. This is achieved by addressing energy efficiency first to capitalize on lower energy costs, reduced emissions and improved operating performance; integrating conventional energy networks (electricity, natural gas, district energy, and transportation fuel) in communities to better match energy needs with the most efficient energy source; better match land use and transportation planning; and, harness local energy opportunities.

This is a sneak peek of an article that will be featured on Clean 50's website by the end of March. To read the full article, keep checking clean50.com. 

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