This week, Council voted unanimously (13-0) to strive towards meeting 100% of its energy needs using renewable sources by 2050. It’s bold, it’s aspirational, and it’s doable. This decision was set in motion through the great work of the Our Energy Guelph (OEG) Taskforce, a group of energy experts tasked with updating our award-winning Community Energy Initiative. After 15 months of research and public consultation, the OEG recommended that we strive for “net zero” as a community. This includes our stakeholders: residents, business, institutions, and industries.
We – the Corporation of the City of Guelph – chose to go one step better by pledging towards 100% Renewables. We will lead by example.
There will be those who say “that’s too much” or “what’s the cost?” During the debate on this issue, one of the questions that circled around was “how can we set a goal without knowing how we will achieve it, or how much it will cost?”
But that’s the point of setting an aspirational goal. We’ve done it before, with great success. Over a decade ago we set an ambitious and bold goal “to have the lowest water use per capita than any other municipality in Canada”. We set that goal because, as a fast-growing groundwater dependent community, we knew that our water supply would limit our quality of life and would inevitably lead to spending billions of dollars on a pipeline to Lake Erie. When we set the goal, we didn’t know exactly how it would be achieved. We knew that conservation, new infrastructure and new supply would be part of the solution. We were successful — Guelph uses less water today than it did a decade ago, including new growth! Today, we are at the same crossroads.
Today, the alternative energy economy is transforming rapidly. The need for action on climate change mitigation is critical. Our soon-to-be hydro utility Alectra Utilities is already talking about energy conservation and new supply generation, and they will be locating their new Green Research and Energy Technology Centre (GR&T) here in Guelph to test new innovations that will move us towards a 100% Renewables future.
The 100% Renewables movement has been embraced by over 1,000 communities worldwide and growing. http://www.go100percent.org
Guelph is seen as an environmental leader. The 100% Renewables pledge continues that legacy, but also moves us forward. Being a 100% Renewables city also poises us for economic development opportunities. We collectively spend over $500 million per year in energy costs that leave out community. With renewables, the jobs and energy revenue stay right here. By planning now for a future of 100% renewables, we can spend your tax dollars on infrastructure that will stand the test of time and keep us resilient when the effects of climate change mount.
The year 2050 is 32 years away. Think back to where technology was 32 years ago. The pace at which our world is changing is mind-boggling. And inspiring. One of the delegates at Council who came to speak about the 100% Renewables pledge — Evan Ferrari of Emerge Guelph — has worked in the energy field for three decades. In his words, “I have never been more hopeful for the future of the environment than now.”