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What the Heck is Energy Mapping?

Nov 28, 2018

QUEST grounds all its activities in the “Smart Energy Community”—a concept that encapsulates the ideal end state of our work. There are real advantages to getting smart about energy. We are not just talking about big cities here, there are huge opportunities for rural and remote communities as well.  There are also benefits for utilities to meet community energy needs as they integrate local, renewable, and conventional energy sources to efficiently, cleanly, and affordably meet its energy needs and reduce GHG emissions.

In the past decade, communities across Canada have started thinking about energy –  not just at billing cycles, but what it means for attaining a desirable future state which is both economically sound and environmentally sustainable.

Communities know that decisions about energy efficiency, reducing energy waste, and harnessing local resources are key to local economic development, making energy costs more affordable for citizens and corporations, improving resilience and security, and providing cleaner air, land and water for us all.

Efficiency Canada’s recent economic impact study showed that implementing the Pan-Canadian Framework’s energy efficiency actions would add 118,000 jobs (average annual full-time equivalent) and increase GDP by 1% over the baseline forecast, by 2030. Every $1 spent on energy efficiency programs generates $7 in GDP.  Smart Energy Communities are harnessing energy efficiency opportunities and advancing entire Community Energy Plans which include not only energy efficiency, but also actions and/or projects associated with renewable energy, smart energy networks, capacity-building, transportation, and others. It is assumed that the GDP and job creation benefits from all actions combined are higher than just those considering energy efficiency options.

So what the heck is community energy mapping?!

Innovative ideas about smart energy planning at the local level don’t happen in a vacuum, they emerge during staff meetings, community consultations, council chambers, corporate boardrooms, and in kitchens over coffee, lunch, and sometimes wine. 

It starts with getting all the right players in the room to exchange ideas and come up with solutions.”

The reality is that most of these key players, for example, utilities, governments, energy service and technology providers, real-estate developers, and local business don’t often have the opportunity to come together and think big.

QUEST offers that opportunity through customized workshops using table-top community energy mapping exercises.  We bring municipal staff, elected officials, community stakeholders around the same table with a map of their community. Using the map and a guidebook we go through a structured exercise to identify opportunities for: energy efficiency (new and existing buildings), heat conversion, renewable integration (small scale and utility scale), district energy, harnessing waste energy resources, minimizing impact of land-use decisions (e.g. sprawl), addressing transportation (e.g. electrification, shared services, active routes) – together these measures provide communities with combined economic, social and environmental benefits for the long term.  The process has been used for education purposes, for policy discussions, as well as identifying energy opportunities when developing Community Energy Plans.

We offer a similar exercise where we use the map and a guidebook to identify climate risk and vulnerability, identify local strengths and weaknesses, and determine adaptation and resilience building measures.  QUEST is currently working with 12 communities across Canada with funding from FCM MCIP Climate Adaptation Partners grant and Natural Resources Canada to use this exercise as part of developing climate risk assessment and resilience strategies with a view to minimizing impacts and/or prevent prolonged outages and disruptions to essential services each municipality provides.

The workshops can be stand-alone half day or full day workshops for education and training purposes, or they can be part of a larger planning process. They can be tailored to meet the needs of your community.

What do communities gain by participating?

Community participants come out of these sessions understanding more about the opportunities for energy projects, economic development, and improved resilience than they did going in. These opportunities are documented, analyzed against baseline energy performance, cost and associated GHG emissions, and are adopted through the local government so that staff are given the mandate to advance agreed-to measures.  The sessions help participants build relationships and partnerships to turn those ideas into actions. But don’t take it from me, check out our testimonials.

As communities move toward becoming Smart Energy Communities, we can see glimpses of this future today in multiple vibrant communities across Canada. Communities are developing and implementing community energy plans, improving energy efficiency, reducing GHG emissions, lowering energy costs, and ensuring resilience. Check out the real world examples have been documented on QUEST’s Smart Energy Atlas.

At QUEST we strive toward an eventuality where all the requirements of daily life, all of the services that energy provides and the things that make neighbourhoods function—transportation; building heating, cooling, and hot water; lighting; wireless data networks; resource-recovery operations—will be working together in a kind of invisible symphony. Energy mapping is just one of the tools we offer to make that goal a reality.

How do I learn more?

If your community is also thinking about how to make this possible, visit us online or send us an email at [email protected] and we can talk about what kind of energy mapping would work for you.

This is the 1st blog is a series of 5 by Eddie Oldfield on energy mapping and data.

Read the 2nd blog in the series – Energy Mapping in the Digital Age

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