Published on Mon, 11/24/2008 by Canadian Gas Association

Must Improve Urban City Energy Systems To Meet Environmental Objectives

By Michael Cleland, President and CEO, Canadian Gas Association

Canada's communities – from big cities to small towns – are built on energy systems which are increasingly unsustainable. The Canadian Gas Association is working with environmental groups, builders, developers, governments and other energy industries to find solutions.

About 50% of the energy we use in Canada is used by communities themselves and about 50% of the greenhouse gas emissions come from those communities. The rest comes from large industry, the resource sectors and long distance transportation.

With other interested stakeholders we are finding ways to reduce the environmental footprint of Canada's growing communities while at the same time delivering more affordable and reliable energy services by taking a longer term perspective and coordinated approach. In fact, industry, academics, and non governmental organizations have long argued that with 50% of our emissions coming from energy use in our communities, this sizeable footprint is both a challenge and an opportunity that needs attention from decision makers at all levels of government.

Sustainability is about more than climate change although climate change is one of the biggest concerns. Sustainability in energy is a complex balancing act that involves delivering affordable, reliable energy services while steadily reducing all environmental impacts. At no point in the future will someone raise their hand and boldly declare that we have reached the sustainable energy system. Sustainability, therefore, is an adaptive evolution that involves many small steps forward as technology evolves, energy options increase, and community energy needs change.

Where does natural gas fit on this long term quest for a sustainable energy future at the community level?

Piped energy will be one of the foundations on which sustainable energy systems are built over the long term. But, what is in the pipelines may change. They may carry natural gas in the traditional sense, renewable natural gas (such as gas from agricultural waste) or simply heat.

Natural gas will partner with new solar or geothermal technology to bring us improved environmental performance for space and water heating without loosing the reliability that homeowners, hospitals, schools, other institutions and small businesses in communities need. Natural gas will also be used in district energy systems and combined heat and power systems to help meet the varying energy needs of entire neighbourhoods more efficiently.

The question is how do we start taking the small steps down this road?

The natural gas distribution industry, community leaders, and decision makers at all levels of government need to work together to ensure that the policy environment supports energy efficiency programs, the development and deployment of alternative energy technology solutions, and more thoughtful and in-depth consideration for community energy solutions.

There is a large untapped potential to meet energy needs in communities with a lower environmental footprint. By looking at land use, energy, local transportation needs, and waste and water management as a system in communities and developing more integrated energy plans, we can curb the draw on all energy grids and see dramatic reductions in energy and the carbon intensity of the economy.

The Canadian Gas Association is the voice of Canada's natural gas distribution industry and is located in Ottawa.

- 30 -

For more information:
Paula Dunlop
613-748-0057 ext. 341 or 613-614-3280