BANFF – The Town of Banff is on target to reach or surpass its climate change targets for municipal buildings in the next decade.
Banff’s annual facilities’ energy and emissions report, which was presented to the governance and finance committee on Sept. 13, outlined energy consumption, costs and greenhouse gas emissions from municipal facilities in 2020, including five-year trends.
Based on the current rate of completing energy efficient projects in the 10-year capital plan, Town of Banff officials say the municipality will likely meet and exceed its goal of reducing corporate emissions by 50 per cent by 2030.
Sally Biddlecombe, the Town of Banff’s municipal energy coordinator, said administration is now striving to achieve a 70 per cent reduction in corporate emissions.
“This can be achieved by consistently integrating upgrades into long-term maintenance plans and through the implementation of whole building energy retrofits and large renewable energy projects,” she said.
A landmark study released last month by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicated the planet’s climate is changing in unprecedented and sometimes irreversible ways, including current sea level rise.
The report provided new estimates of the chances of crossing the global warming level of 1.5 C in the next decades, and concluded limiting warming to close to 1.5 C or even 2 C will be beyond reach unless there are rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gases.
For 1.5 C of global warming, there will be increasing heat waves, longer warm seasons and shorter cold seasons. At 2°C of global warming, heat extremes would more often reach critical tolerance thresholds for agriculture and health.
At the Aug. 9 release of the report, IPCC working group co-chair Panmao Zhai said climate change is already affecting every region on Earth and includes changes to wetness and dryness, to winds, snow and ice, coastal areas and oceans.
“Stabilizing the climate will require strong, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and reaching net zero CO2 emissions,” he said in a press release.
The Town of Banff’s greenhouse gas emissions from municipal facilities totalled 4,560 tonnes CO2e in 2020, a decrease of 646 tonnes CO2e compared to 2019 – a 12 per cent drop since 2019 and a 31 per cent reduction since 2016.
Biddlecombe said this decrease in greenhouse gas emissions is attributed to an overall reduction in electricity and natural gas consumption and the steadily declining emissions intensity of the Alberta grid.
Although the Town of Banff uses slightly more natural gas than electricity, she said emissions from electricity are much higher.
“This is due to the high emissions intensity of the Alberta grid,” Biddlecombe said. “Reducing electricity consumption, therefore, has a greater effect on emissions.”
Councillor Chip Olver said she was inspired to hear the work the Town of Banff is continuing to embark upon to do its part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“It is really heartening to learn that we will certainly meet and almost certainly exceed our goals for municipal energy reduction by 2030,” she said during the Sept. 13 governance and finance committee meeting.
In terms of energy consumption in 2020, municipal facilities used 6,216 MWh of electricity and 8,094 MWh of natural gas for a total consumption of 14,309 MWh – an 8.6 per cent drop from the year before.
Biddlecombe said the Fenlands recreation centre reduced its electricity use by 29 per cent and its natural gas consumption by 23 percent in 2020, mostly due to closures during the COVID-19 pandemic that led to a reduced ice season and shutdown of non-essential equipment.
“Efficiency upgrades and capital projects have also taken place at the Fenlands and contribute to the reduction,” she said.
The use of electricity for the Town to run all water infrastructure, which includes wells, reservoirs, pump houses, lift stations and the wastewater treatment plant, decreased by 14 per cent.
Biddlecombe said 45 per cent of municipal energy use is dedicated to extracting fresh water from the town’s aquifer, pumping water and wastewater around the community, and treating it at the wastewater treatment plant.
“A reduction in water consumption leads to a significant reduction in municipal energy use,” she said.
The municipality’s solar arrays at the Fenlands, fleet services building, Town Hall and the Central Park and Wolf Street washrooms collectively produced 364 megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity.
Biddlecombe said about 58 per cent of this was used within municipal facilities, accounting for 3.4 per cent of total electricity consumption, while the remaining 42 per cent was sold back to the grid.
“Use of solar electricity in municipal buildings saved 141 tonnes CO2e from our municipal emissions portfolio,” she said.
As a result of lowering energy use, the Town of Banff also saw a $71,870 drop in its natural gas and electricity bills to just over $1 million in 2020.
Biddlecombe said the decrease was due to closures of facilities during the pandemic, but also because of equipment upgrades and other energy efficiency measures.
Milder temperatures last winter also played a part in lower natural gas consumption, she said.
“The impacts of COVID-19 were a major contributor to this decrease in energy costs; however, a number of trends contributed to the overall cost difference compared to 2019,” she said.
Assuming natural gas consumption and retail prices remain at current levels, Biddlecombe said the federal carbon pricing plan will double the Town of Banff’s natural gas bill by 2030, leading to more than $200,000 of additional energy costs each year.
“Mitigating against this cost increase is a major driver behind administration’s efforts to complete major energy efficiency upgrades to most large facilities over the next decade,” she said.
Energy efficient projects completed in 2020-21 include a new water treatment system at the Fenlands that eliminates the need for hot water when building and resurfacing ice and construction of a biomass district heating system in the industrial compound.
Biddlecombe said future potential capital projects include major energy retrofits at Banff’s fire hall and Town Hall to a standard that would significantly reduce the energy consumption and emissions of these buildings.
Given the big price tags associated with these types of projects, she said administration is exploring funding options, including a financing model that uses cost savings from reduced energy consumption to repay the cost of installing energy saving measures.
“These retrofits would include major upgrades to the building envelope, HVAC system, lighting, and the addition of renewable energy technologies,” she said.