You are on page 1of 9


Transitioning neighbourhoods to carbon neutrality. One i hb O neighbourhood at a time. h d t ti


June 2012 Neighbourhood Summit IDEAS Paper







Project Neutral Transitioning neighbourhoods to carbon neutrality One neighbourhood at a time


Over 80 residents, neighbourhood leaders and experts in urban sustainability participated in the event on June 9th sponsored by Evergreen Brick Works. Welcome remarks were made by Karen Nasmith, CoFounder and Managing Director of Project Neutral, neighbourhood leaders Sandra Lester and Paul Mero, and Elizabeth Gresh of Evergreen Brick Works. Visionary urban designer, architect and author Ken Greenberg delivered the keynote presentation More Urban and More Green: Cities Hold the Key. Kens inspirational talk reviewed the potential of urban sustainability and what can be done to unlock this potential in our urban environments. Throughout the day, expert panels addressed three opportunities for reducing emissions at the neighbourhood scale: municipally financed energy retrofits (Sonja Persram, Sustainable Alternatives Inc.), retrofitting urban neighbourhoods for district energy (Greg Allen, Sustainable Edge and Joyce Mclean, Toronto Hydro) and Neighbourhood Offsetting: Using carbon offsets to fund local projects (Robert Elms, Green Power Action and Travis Allan, Zizzo Allan Climate Law). 30-minute breakout sessions followed each of the panel presentations. Participants discussed their overall interest in the ideas, and identified concerns, opportunities, and next steps. Project Neutral has summarized key findings in the following paper and key action items are already underway! Councillor Paula Fletcher, Ward 30, and Councillor Sarah Doucette, Ward 13, Co-Chaired the Neighbourhood Summit. Both Co-Chairs expressed their continued support for Project Neutral and commented on the sense of optimism and inspiration they sensed in the room.

EMBRACING CHANGE IS HARD. CREATING CHANGE IS EVEN HARDER. Project Neutral would like to THANK all those who contributed to making the Neighbourhood Summit a huge success, including the Summit Organizing Committee, our Neighbourhood Partners, Volunteers and Sponsors.


Project Neutral Transitioning neighbourhoods to carbon neutrality One neighbourhood at a time

Municipally Financed Energy Retrofits: Property Assessed Payments for Energy Retrofits (PAPER) Speaker: Sonja Persram, President & CEO, Sustainable Alternatives Consulting Inc. THE IDEA: In a PAPER program homeowners would obtain upfront financing from their municipalities using an existing method called Local Improvement Charges (LICs), for renovations to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. The financing would be associated with the property (not the owner) and repaid as a temporary fee on the property tax bills of only those homeowners who opt in to the program. When the homeowner sells the house, any remaining amount owing on the PAPER financing would continue to be repaid by the new owner, who would also benefit from the improvements. Overall Interest A great program with huge potential at the neighbourhood-level. When participants were asked to raise their hands to show interest in participating in a pilot PAPER program, almost all hands were raised. Opportunities Bulk purchasing could realize economies of scale and drive down costs Mature neighbourhoods (e.g. Riverdale and the Junction) are ideal for this program due to the number of houses that need retrofitting Financing for PAPER could be rolled into assessments for mortgage refinancing Good sell politically. PAPER can be positioned as a jobcreator. Important to highlight the reduced number of mortgage defaults among U.S. participants (that had PAPER financing). Emphasize / leverage opportunities for collective organization through Project Neutral, such as growing grassroots support, gaining attention of Council and municipal staff, and coordinating information sharing between homeowners.

Challenges Clear communications and engagement strategy is critical to achieve widespread support and buy-in Reliability of energy savings estimates (sufficient enough to cover financing costs?) An audit that prioritizes retrofit options would be valuable. An assessment of options and corresponding benefits would help homeowners to make informed decisions and simplify decision-making. Although amortization of costs reduce barriers, some homeowners may still need further incentives for participating in the program


Staging improvements is important to accommodate household needs one time access to funds was one problem with ecoENERGY Follow up audits would be valuable to determine effectiveness of renovations. A report showing energy savings could be used to educate homeowners and encourage participation in the program. Would participation in the program lead to reassessments of home value and increases to property tax above the payback for renovations? This would influence the sales pitch to homeowners. Would there be a cap on household financing? For each option there could be an amount of available financing, above which the owner would pay out of pocket. What is the financial risk and who is liable for costs? Would insurance be included? If so, would there be a group insurance plan? Availability of contractors to perform the upgrades Mandatory vs optional list of certified/pre-approved contractors. Potential for liability issues if problems arise with pre-approved contractors. Might be better to focus on products (e.g. consider developing a recommend list Need to develop plans for households when ownership changes hands

Project Neutral Transitioning neighbourhoods to carbon neutrality One neighbourhood at a time

Encourage / assist PAPER champions at City Hall to advocate for a feasibility study Make deputation to Council and follow-up at Committee meetings. Collaborate with partners with relevant experience and expertise. (e.g. Toronto Atmospheric Fund) Undertake feasibility study to further explore pilot details (financing cap per household, effect on property taxes, GHG targets, program coordination and administrative costs and logistics) Demonstrate the value of the PAPER program by initiating a pilot project. Undertake a letter writing campaign to targeted municipal and provincial figures Administer a community survey, raise awareness and develop buy-in through workshops and events Make a preparedness list for homeowners interested in the program Leverage web based knowledge and social networking

Next Steps Explore potential for Riverdale and the Junction to be involved in a pilot program

I thought the Summit was excellent well organized, great space and speakers, great food. Everyone was engaged and excited. I feel very fortunate to have been able to attend. - Pamela Mountain, Junction resident


Project Neutral Transitioning neighbourhoods to carbon neutrality One neighbourhood at a time

Retrofitting Urban Neighbourhoods for District Energy Speakers: Greg Allen, Senior Associate, Sustainable Edge Joyce Mclean, Director, Strategic Issues, Toronto Hydro, District Energy

Summary of Idea District energy (DE), refers to a network of buried pipes that carry thermal energy in the form of steam or hot or cold water to connected buildings and homes from a central energy source. DE is used primarily to heat and sometimes to cool buildings in place of conventional heating/cooling systems (e.g., furnaces, air conditioning units, boilers, chillers). By incorporating combined heat and power (CHP), DE can also generate electricity to share with connected buildings or send to the grid. It is also sometimes called neighbourhood or community energy. By allowing connected buildings to share energy and incorporate renewable fuels, district energy systems can help communities move away from fossil fuel dependence and towards zero GHG emission operations. Overall interest Participants expressed general support for a neighbourhood-level district energy initiative, however more information was requested about a range of issues, including costs, benefits, technical feasibility, identifying potential proponents, etc. Collaborative approach with utilities, government, residents and neighbourhood organisations is essential. Opportunities Cost-sharing an advantage in neighbourhoods A staged project would create more time for people to buy into a system Local energy production fits well with the local movement (e.g. 100 mile diet) There might be an opportunity to develop partnerships with local industrial or commercial practices that have waste heat, etc. The reduction of GHG emissions could be used to sell offsets and sustain the system financially Look at potential for royalty system or using local improvement charges to fund DE Explore potential for residents to add rough-in connection when renovating; in 30-40 years entire neighbourhood could be ready to connect to DE system. Laneway geothermal could use back-to-back connections, cause less disruption A community solar array in Withrow Park could be used as a shading device Look at Corix experience with residential projects.

Challenges Cost-benefit is still unclear. Is it technically and financially feasible? What are the regulatory barriers? Need to develop a good financing model Difficulty of retrofitting old neighbourhoods


Is it easily replicable in other neighbourhoods? Reducing energy demand should precede renewable energy systems. Only effective if houses are already energy efficient. A Toronto Atmospheric Fund study of laneway geothermal found several barriers, including system management and compatibility of home heating systems It would take many years to complete a pilot project There would need to be a critical mass of highly committed participants Limited options for generation on-site (in the

Project Neutral Transitioning neighbourhoods to carbon neutrality One neighbourhood at a time

neighbourhoods). Where would a DE be located? There is a huge learning curve related to DE. A pilot would require a well thought out engagement and awareness strategy. Concern about red tape resulting in significant delays.

Next steps Project Neutral to be an advocate for DE in neighbourhoods; research successful case studies Engage with the right champions and decision-makers (e.g. Toronto Hydro, TAF), follow up with Office of Energy Efficiency, City of Toronto Explore potential for co-operatives to finance and manage a project Explore potential for generating provincial royalties from geothermal energy Consider a university partnership With TAF, explore the potential of using city laneways for geothermal Set realistic expectations for implementation Project Neutral to add a question to the Household Carbon Footprint Survey about type of heating and cooling system used by households

Congratulations on a fantastic event on Saturday. There was definitely a lot of energy in the room and everyone I spoke to is so excited about the potential for their neighbourhoods - Tiffany Vong, Emerging Leaders Network


Project Neutral Transitioning neighbourhoods to carbon neutrality One neighbourhood at a time

Neighbourhood Carbon Co-ops: Using offsets to fund local projects Speakers: Robert Elms, Green Power Action Travis Allan, Partner, Zizzo Allan Climate Law Summary of Idea Neighbourhood Offsetting allows individuals and organizations to purchase credits from neighbourhood scale projects in order to reduce their own impact and transition to carbon neutrality. Offsetting projects could include tree planting, small scale renewable energy, improved forest management, low till agriculture, cogeneration (electricity and heat generation), or energy efficiency upgrades and can be used to offset an individuals entire carbon footprint or to just focus on a specific activity (e.g. air travel). Overall interest General support for investment in a neighbourhood project; many questions about offsetting and some reservations expressed Opportunities Local offset projects help to ensure money ends up back in the neighbourhoods Opportunity to link up with other neighbourhoods and replicate elsewhere There is already a demonstrated interest in offsetting (e.g. Bullfrog) The idea can be bundled with PAPER and district energy, resulting in energy efficiency and reduced GHG emissions and the potential to sell offsets Neighbourhoods could purchase offsets as a collective and benefit from group purchasing power Tree planting could offset emissions from air travel Concerns Imperative that offsets are connected with initiatives that have proven ghg reductions; not a solution alone Challenging to develop a project that would reduce enough emissions to undertake a viable project. (e.g 20 tonnes saved at $6 a tonne is $120.1) If Project Neutral sells credits, neighbourhoods cannot claim to be carbon neutral. Who would purchase offsets? Local residents and businesses may not generate enough money to fund a project Who would certify the offsets? What are the administrative costs? Next steps Research case studies, perform market research, explore operating model as part of a feasibility study Develop an inventory of potential projects

1 It was noted that price varies depending on demand; marketing the

credits as a neighbourhood project could add significant value.


Project Neutral Transitioning neighbourhoods to carbon neutrality One neighbourhood at a time

What Happens Next?

Exploring Opportunities & Partnerships Project Neutral will continue to explore the opportunities discussed at the Neighbourhood Summit (PAPER, district energy and neighbourhood carbon offsetting). This will include follow-up with experts and meeting with local leaders and champions, including City Councillors. Working Groups comprised of various stakeholders will be established for each idea. Interested in getting involved? To join a Working Group or receive our monthly newsletter, e-mail For Working Groups, please identify the idea that you are interested in (PAPER, district energy or neighbourhood carbon offsetting). Neighbourhood Meetings & Fall Survey Over the summer, Project Neutral will be revising the Household Carbon Footprint Survey ( It is our goal to make Survey 2.0 more convenient and user-friendly, in order to encourage a greater number of households to participate in establishing a neighbourhood baseline. In the fall, public meetings we be held in both neighbourhoods to: Present the findings of the Neighbourhood Summit and report on follow up actions, and provide opportunities for further engagement regarding ideas that reduce emissions at the neighbourhood scale; Present Household Retrofit Studies undertaken by University of Toronto Building Science students for common building typologies in Riverdale and the Junction (some of this work was on display at the Summit. For those who missed it, we will soon post the Studies on our website stay tuned); and, Launch the second annual Household Carbon Footprint Survey.

Neighbourhood Resource Manual We are delighted to announce that Project Neutral will be developing a Neighbourhood Resource Manual. The Manual will be a collection of best practices collected from The Junction and Riverdale over the last year and will provide neighbourhood groups with a blueprint including resources, tools, tips, and examples to get started on their own Project Neutral initiative. To see pictures and videos from the Neighbourhood Summit: Pictures from the Neighbourhood Summit, as well as the agenda, background papers have been posted to our website and facebook page. Videos and presentations will be posted shortly.