Monday, October 24th will see a new Orillia City Council elected. Over the next four years, they will be charged with implementing Orillia’s Climate Future, the city’s climate change action plan. This council will be in place until 2026, just four years before the deadline set by Canada’s federal government to reach a 40% reduction in carbon emissions. Will this new council make progress in reducing emissions in this community? Your vote on October 24th will determine the answer to that question.
The City’s climate change action plan has three pillars—or “Big Moves,” as they are called in the plan. The first? Establish a dependable supply of local renewable energy. Orillia already has a strong head start on reaching this goal because of the foresight of local people 100 years ago. The Orillia Water Light and Power company brought hydroelectricity to the city from nearby rivers as early as 1902 and followed that beginning by building more generating stations in the area over the next fifty years. In addition, since much of Ontario’s electricity generation is generated from nuclear, hydro and a small (as yet) amount of renewable energy, Orillia and Ontario are well ahead of many other jurisdictions around the world in being able to reach this goal. (Ontario’s plan to build more gas plants may reduce this lead somewhat.) The City plan will likely include encouraging citizens to install rooftop solar generation. Currently, our bare roofs are a vast untapped source of energy through much of the year.
The Second ? Reduce emissions by electrifying our vehicles—cars, trucks, buses, tractors, snowplows, lawnmowers—everything that currently burns either gasoline or diesel as fuel.
This will be no small task as the change looks not only to city vehicles, but to the vehicles owned and operated by city businesses AND the vehicles driven by the citizens of this community. A significant reduction in the emissions from these sources will require the cooperation—and buy-in—of hundreds of local businesses as well as thousands of car and truck owners.
The third Big Move is to reduce emissions from buildings in our community. Again, this will likely start with City-owned buildings, from the City Centre building to other city-owned buildings—buildings that house maintenance equipment, Fire Halls, the Orillia Museum of Art and History, the Opera House, and the Stephen Leacock building for a start. Again, the goal is to urge businesses to make the same moves to reduce emissions—and heating and cooling costs at the same time—from all of their buildings.
Then, of course, there’s the housing in our community, from 100 year old houses to rooming houses to apartment buildings and condo units.
The scale of the task is daunting; however, retrofitting buildings, including the installation of heat pumps, can make them more energy-efficient and lead to reduced electricity bills and more comfortable homes.
So what does all of this have to do with the upcoming municipal election?