Earlier this year, Burlington City Council endorsed the City’s first community energy plan, which takes a holistic view of how energy is used and delivered in the community.

The plan will help the City and partner agencies identify areas where conservation and efficiency measures can be focused; identify local sustainable energy opporunities; and look at the energy implications of future growth, prosperity and transportation initiatives.

The project was led by a steering committee comprised of City and Burlington Hydro staff, with strategic input along the way from a community stakeholder advisory committee, an integral part to the development of the plan.  The City was fortunate to work with this experienced group of stakeholders, representing organizations such as Union Gas, Burlington Economic Development Corporation, McMaster Institute for Energy, the local school boards and local environmental groups, among others.  The stakeholder committee worked closely with the steering committee, suggesting new ideas, acting as a sounding board, and providing information and data as required.  

Developing a Community Energy Plan is a complex process that requires engagement from various stakeholder groups and coordination across multiple municipal departments. Thankfully, there are resources available that can facilitate the process. QUEST – Quality Urban Energy Systems of Tomorrow – recently released “Advancing Community Energy Planning in Ontario: A Primer,” a ‘how-to’ guide for communities wanting to undertake a process of stakeholder engagement to achieve a vision for energy in the community that goes beyond the municipal corporation.

QUEST’s detailed Primer emerged from a vigorous stakeholder consultation process and includes a review of current energy planning processes, players and drivers.  The Primer works within your municipality’s regulatory framework and integrates into existing energy and conservation efforts. It also helps prepare for questions and challenges encountered along way while building local buy-in from staff and elected officials.

Burlington’s Community Energy Plan has a 20-year time horizon and will involve continued collaboration with key stakeholders and community engagement.  This is not a ‘city hall’ plan but a community-based plan.  It has already started conversations on possible opportunities, such as integrated community energy systems, district energy heating and cooling networks, and electric vehicle charging stations.  The CEP supports the official plan review and master transportation plan, which are key vehicles for planning a more efficient community, supporting a sustainable transportation network and resulting in a healthy, livable and complete city.  It will enable a strong municipal voice at the regional energy planning tables being established by the province.

QUEST is a national non-profit organization supported by a collaborative network of partners that undertakes research, policy analysis, outreach, and capacity building to advance smart energy communities in Canada.

Implementation will take time and should be considered a journey.