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Water Today Title June 23, 2021

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Greening government - Overview


By Suzanne Forcese

Canadians are becoming painfully aware of the catastrophic impacts of climate change. The new normal is extreme weather events - droughts, flooding, wildfires, increasing heat waves, thawing permafrost. Canada and the global community have been witnessing and experiencing coastal erosion, ecosystem changes, risks to critical infrastructure, as well as food and water security.

Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Catherine Mckenna, has stated, "The environment and the economy go together."

The Government of Canada is providing leadership towards low-carbon, climate change resilient operations by making its own operations greener and adopting technologies that significantly reduce cost and ensure safety. In an announcement by Minister McKenna, Canada will partner with Innovate Energy, through a public-private partnership model to modernize how it heats and cools buildings in the Nation's Capital Region. This will also allow the city, the community and local businesses to tap into cleaner power. "By investing in cleaner and more efficient ways to deliver energy to tens of thousands of occupants in the national Capital Region, we are reducing pollution, fighting climate change, and saving hundreds of millions of dollars on operating costs," she said in a statement.

The science is clear that human activities are driving unprecedented changes in the earth's climate, posing significant risks to human health, our environment, our security and economic growth. The Government of Canada is poised to change this trajectory with its commitment to becoming a global leader in climate change resiliency with its Greening Government Strategy, consistent with Canada's Sustainability Goals already established under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Over 80 buildings in Ottawa, including the Parliament Buildings, are on a district energy system that connects to central plants using over 14 kilometers of underground piping to provide heating by steam and cooling by chilled water. The current system was built between 50 and 100 years ago. It uses outdated technologies and many of its components are at the end of their service life. The system will be modernized to cut green-house gas emissions and save money. "Modern district energy systems in cities is one of the least-cost and most-efficient energy solutions for reducing green-house gas emissions and primary energy demand." (District Energy in Cities: Unlocking the potential of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, United Nations Environmental Programme)

PSPC Energy Services

The goal of a 40% reduction in GHG emissions from federal operations by 2030 will be initiated by the modernization of the network of plants that heat and cool these 80 buildings. Stage One of the project which will be the equivalent of removing 14,000 cars from Canadian roads will involve using water at a temperature of 70 degrees Celsius instead of the steam that is currently being used at a temperature of 138 degrees Celsius; and switching from steam to electric chillers. The implementation of Smart Buildings is also included in this first stage. Most buildings have digital systems that control their mechanical and electrical equipment. Smart Buildings is a system that collects raw data from that equipment and analyzes it as it comes in. Implementing this system in federal buildings would involve the system using data to find conditions when buildings are using equipment inefficiently. It could mean that the mechanical or electrical systems are wasting energy. If there is a problem, it can be rectified immediately. For example, analysis of data could find that in a building's ventilation system one fan is using much more energy than others. This is not something that a maintenance worker would notice by mere observation. The system is "smarter" in that it identifies a problem and provides a solution minimizing wasted energy by alerting building management immediately.

Smart Buildings lower energy costs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, identify and diagnose problems immediately. In addition, information collected from the system is available for building occupants and operators to use. This information can be displayed in public areas thereby creating an energy conscious culture.

These actions will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 63%. The first stage will also test carbon neutral fuels like biomass and bio-oil, solar energy, industrial waste recapture and waste to energy. This move is to replace natural gas and other fossil fuels. Stage One will start in 2020. Starting in 2025, Stage Two will be using alternative fuels for the future. It is estimated that greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by an additional 25%. This is equivalent of removing an additional 7000 cars from Canadian roads.

The network will also expand to more buildings in Stage Two (2025-2055). The 80 plus buildings currently on the network could potentially be increased to 600 which would triple the overall greenhouse gas reduction. "We are committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which includes leading by example by greening our own heating and cooling plants," said Minister of Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), Carla Qualtrough.

The program is a public-private partnership (PPP). Long term contracts leverage the strengths and resources of industry while offering the highest value for money and least risk to taxpayers. "We are proud that our Government is working with partners like Innovate Energy to modernize this critical infrastructure, reduce costs and emissions in a safe and responsible way," stated Qualtrough.

PSPC Smart Buildings

The total contract is valued at $2.6 billion over a 35-year period. The first portion is for the design and construction valued at $1.1 billion awarded to Innovate Energy, to be completed by 2025 as well as additional funding for ongoing maintenance and operation. The investment is just one more way the Government of Canada is greening the capital. By switching the heating and cooling plants to cleaner technology, the project will reduce carbon pollution by 63 %, save hundreds of millions of dollars, and improve safety conditions. The partnership also includes the operation and maintenance of the system from 2025-2055.

Tony Cook, Construction Manager, PCL Constructors Canada, Inc., has said, "The Innovate Energy Team members consisting of PCL Constructors Canada, PCL Investments Canada, Black & McDonald, and ENGIE Services, along with our design partners BBB Architects, Ottawa and WSP Canada, are honoured to have the opportunity to work with PSPC to modernize the district energy system. This project will be one of the country's most significant projects to reduce Green House Gas emissions, save operational costs, and improve safety."

Innovate Energy's approach includes making the existing heating system safer and less energy consuming by the conversion of steam to low-temperature hot water; building and decommissioning plants; upgrading existing facilities in Ottawa and Gatineau, including the Cliff plant near the Parliament; and switching from steam to electric chillers. In addition, the Government of Canada placed restrictions on the use of long-term private capital which required PCL investments to structure the project in a way not done before in the Canadian PPP market. This structure required PCL Investments and TD Securities, as financial advisor, to create an innovative approach to the financing structure. "It is an honour to partner with the Government of Canada. We are passionate and determined to help them reach their goals to lead by example through the de-carbonization of its operations," said Innovate Energy's Kevin Skinner.

The benefits of acting on climate change will reduce risks and create new economic opportunities and employment for Canadians. The Government of Canada is one of the largest buyers of goods and services in Canada and it activities impact the national economy, influencing the demand for environmentally preferable goods and services, the ability of industry to respond to the escalating use of environmental standards in global markets and the resiliency of Canadian assets to climate change.

There is already a global market for low-carbon goods and services worth over $5.8 trillion which is projected to keep growing at a rate of 3% per year. Through the deployment and promotion of innovative technologies that address climate change, the Government will contribute to the global competitiveness of the Canadian clean technology sector.

The Government is also one of the largest real property owners in Canada. Ongoing greening of federal Crown-owned assets will support the development of the green building industry investments in clean electricity and contribute to reductions in GHG emissions from federal operations. Renewable power development in Canada is another significant contribution.

"We are working hard to make Ottawa the greenest capital city with investments in LRT, cycling infrastructure, active transportation, and a healthier Ottawa River. We are setting the standard for how communities can become greener and more resilient in the face of climate change. Projects like this show that investing in practical, affordable clean energy solutions protects our environment, supports good jobs, and builds a stronger economy for the future." Minister Catherine McKenna.


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