By Tonja Leach
and Ericka Wicks
QUEST and Pollution Probe recently launched the Smart Energy Communities Benchmark, a first-of-its-kind tool that provides a powerful benchmark that Canadian municipalities and utilities can use to assess their Smart Energy Community progress.
Municipalities have a growing interest in community energy planning because it offers opportunities to strengthen economies, reduce energy costs and emissions, and boost community resilience.
Take London, Ontario one of the Benchmark pilot communities, as an example. Of the $1.6 billion spent on energy in 2014, only 12 per cent stayed in the local economy, and 59 per cent total stayed in the province. While developing their Community Energy Action Plan and undertaking an economic analysis, London calculated that for every one per cent reduction in energy use they would keep $13 million in the local economy. Londoners have since avoided an estimated over $730 million in cumulative energy costs from 2010 until 2018.
While communities are seeing the potential, they require tools and resources to support their efforts in community energy planning. This is where the Benchmark comes in.
The Benchmark is made up of 10 indicators and a scoring framework designed to measure the key components of a Smart Energy Community. The first five (Governance, Staff, Data, Financials, and Strategy) identify and measure the local capacity and resources that need to be in place. The second five (Land Use, Energy Networks, Water & Waste, Transportation, and Buildings) measure the effective management and integration of infrastructure to use, move, and source energy as efficiently as possible.
With this data in hand, communities can show elected officials, stakeholders, and citizens the strengths of their community energy leadership and emissions reductions, and areas where opportunities exist for further improvement and action.
Not only does the Smart Energy Communities Benchmark help communities reach their goals, but it provides resources to help communities increase their ambition and progress over time. We encourage all municipalities and energy utilities to learn more and take advantage of this new resource.
The nine pilot communities – the local governments and the energy utilities that serve them – that participated in the development of the Benchmark were:
Campbell River, BC
Grande Prairie, AB
QUEST is also currently exploring if, and if so how, the Smart Energy Communities Benchmark may be made applicable to the diversity of Indigenous community contexts across Canada.
Visit the Smart Energy Communities Benchmark website to learn more and to see the full assessments from the pilot communities.
Tonja Leach is Executive Director and Ericka Wicks Managing Director of QUEST.