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Hamilton, Ontario was the location on April 23 for our HRAI Symposium: Transitioning to a low carbon economy, a well received event featuring numerous excellent speakers, a tour of a remarkable new building and a chance for industry partners to share developments during a time of great change.

 

David Miller, former Mayor of Toronto is now the North American Director for the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, which connects 90 of the world's top cities, representing 650 million people. He kicked off the event with an eye-opening presentation, reviewing some of the commitments being made by municipalities around the world, including in North America, to decisive and quick decarbonization and electrification.

He provided details on dramatic regulatory changes and industry support programs in New York, San Francisco, Toronto, and elsewhere, and noted “With about 80% of Canadians (and North Americans) living in some kind of urban area, the role of municipal governments is becoming tremendously important.” He said that 70% of emissions are attributed to cities and that the 90 municipalities in his group were projecting peak emissions by 2020 and carbon neutrality by 2050. To underscore the statement, he presented a breakdown of exactly what they were implementing. His presentation helped participants understand that gas appliances are likely on their way out, and perhaps more quickly than the nightly news might indicate.

Joyce Henry from Natural Resources Canada also made a presentation that outlined the initiatives Ottawa has announced, some quite recently, to support the transition to a low carbon world. She mentioned the longstanding Energy Star and EnerGuide consumer purchasing programs, the carbon pricing and rebates of the Pan-Canadian Framework, developed by Canadian and provincial governments, and also the Market Transformation Roadmap for Energy Efficient Equipment in the Building Sector.

The Market Transformation Roadmap includes initiatives relating to space heating, water heating and windows. Space heating and water heating represent up to 64% and 19% respectively of a Canadian building’s energy use; while up to 35% of heat losses are attributed to windows. The Roadmap contains numerous initiatives in these three categories, including research & development, lab and field testing, product and system demonstrations, information and awareness to educate the marketplace, training for the industry, financial and non-financial incentives, establishment and harmonization of new codes and standards.

Henry also reviewed recent Canadian budget announcements of a $1.1 billion fund created to support these kinds of built environment initiatives in cities, through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities; and a new electric vehicle package of purchase and charging infrastructure incentives worth $430 million. The government has also announced the Canada Training Benefit, which includes a worker training tax credit and some re-training benefits, launching next year.

Alice Rosenberg, Senior Program Manager for the Consortium for Energy Efficiency talked about the transformation from the point of view of electric utilities. She stated that the carbon price in the Pan-Canadian Framework is creating 118,000 Canadian jobs each year in renewable energy and related businesses. She described key developments for utilities in battery storage, smart load management, electronic monitoring and analytics of electric grid systems and building equipment. She noted that more distributed power generation, and electric vehicle penetration are affecting the reinvention of CEE member utilities.

Rosenberg began her presentation with a discussion of how the most forward-looking members of the power and construction industries can smooth the transition to the future by learning to ‘sell the beach.’ She was alluding to a marketing principal in the travel field that focuses not on flights and hotel check-ins, but with the end benefit: relaxing with a cocktail on the beach.

Andrew Bowerbank of WSP Engineering also provided some insights from the world of large project mechanical design. He described complexities, new technology trends, challenges and opportunities. He said the net-zero building market could be worth $700 billion by next year and $1.3 trillion within a decade.

The Symposium also offered participants a panel discussion called Navigating the Increasingly Complicated Federal-Provincial Relationship around Energy Efficiency and Carbon Reduction Strategies with moderator Corey Diamond, Executive Director, Efficiency Canada, Steve McDonald, President & CEO, Efficiency Nova Scotia, Terry Young, Vice-President of Conservation, IESO and Joyce Henry, Director General, Office of Energy Efficiency, Natural Resources Canada. Panelists provided several insights into how technological change and government programs evolve, with and without influence from political leaders.

The symposium was held at the Joyce Center of Partnership & Innovation at Mohawk College, a stunning new net-zero building that has already won several awards. Tony Cupido, Research Chair for Mohawk, provided a tour for symposium participants, explaining some of the technical aspects of the facility’s geoexchange, photovoltaic solar,solar thermal, rainwater harvesting, and LED lighting systems.

The event was a testament to the value of knowledgeable people coming together and exchanging what they have learned, and their expectations and hopes for the future.