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Mayoral candidates pronounce the current climate action plan “unviable” and “wishful thinking” while proposing new ones

September 30, 2022

Ottawa’s municipal election campaign is shining much needed light on the city’s $57B climate action plan, named “Energy Evolution.”

It might even be dead.

We certainly hope so.

Work on the plan was started in the middle of the last decade including a series of “Pathway” studies released in 2017, and culminating in the Energy Evolution document passed by the city’s environmental protection committee and then Council in October of  2020. One Pathway study focused on wind power and acknowledged that Ottawa was a “low” wind resource area (translation: not enough wind to run turbines), the problem could be solved by offering developers more money to come here anyway. The result would be higher electricity bills, but not more reliable power.

While the city claims it conducted public engagement for the plan, it appears that a select group of “stakeholders” was contacted for their applause, and the plan was presented to Council within six months of official declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A casual inquiry of Ottawa citizens will reveal that few people know about the plan and its very hefty price tag, which relies heavily on support from all three levels of government. (To compare, Toronto has a climate plan, too. TransformTO has a budget of $6 million a year.)

A report in today’s Ottawa Citizen says a mayoral debate focused on the environment held September 29th saw candidates presenting their own plans for climate action. Former mayor and now candidate for a repeat gig Bob Chiarelli said the current plan, (i.e., Energy Evolution) is “unviable” and based on “wishful thinking.”

He doesn’t say it is out and out crazy but he could have. The electricity portion of the document was written for the city by activist group Pollution Probe, and recommends that Ottawa turn up its nose at the provincial power grid, and create its own power supply. How? By using wind and solar power.

That is not only nuts it’s impossible. Both are unreliable, weather-dependent sources of power that even with the notion of battery storage, cannot possibly power a city of 1.1 million people.

The plan features a raft of other completely unworkable ideas. A half a million heat pumps is prescribed: interesting, but also impossible across the board. The units are large and do create noise; water source heat pumps need a lot of property to install the equipment.

On propane? No problem: switch to a wood pellet heating system. Because burning wood is better than burning propane, right?

There’s more, but we refer you to our earlier post on how the Energy Evolution plan will hit you, hard.

Candidate and former broadcaster Mark Sutcliffe had a few comments about a climate plan. He said he wouldn’t spend $250 million on bike lanes, which was a jab at fellow candidate Catherine McKenney. Sutcliffe talks about planting trees and other measures, but doesn’t say anything about power.

Catherine McKenney never mentions Energy Evolution but they (McKenney prefers the pronouns ‘they’ and ‘them’) were a councillor when Ottawa City Council passed the climate action plan, and is a member of the environmental protection committee to boot, which not only passed the plan before sending on to Council but was presumably the standing committee that had some oversight on the project. McKenney has made statements about renewable energy, but has also said they want to turn the Greenbelt into an urban national park.

That conflicts with Ottawa’s Official Plan which in Section 4.11 states that renewable energy facilities may be located in the Greenbelt as a principal use. The councillor may be thinking that means a few solar panels to power signs or lights, not 600-foot grid-scale wind turbines which would be an industrial use of the land.

Lots of views to choose from but it appears Energy Evolution might get a review under a new Mayor and Council, if not shelved altogether.

We’re betting few candidates are aware that Energy Evolution was used as “evidence” when the City opposed a customer pipeline replacement by Enbridge along St Laurent Blvd to serve Ottawa natural gas customers.

At an all-candidates meeting in North Gower, for Ward 21, all three of the candidates appearing that evening pledged to demand a review of Energy Evolution.

Haven’t read Energy Evolution yet? Here it is: energy-transition-report-1