- National Wind Watch: Wind Energy News - https://www.wind-watch.org/news -

City admits environmental goals were too steep

The City of Medicine Hat won’t achieve the majority of environmental goals it set out almost a decade ago.

“I think when we chose the numbers we weren’t being realistic about the cost,” said energy committee chair Coun. Bill Cocks following a Thursday meeting. “We just picked nice round-sounding numbers. Who wouldn’t have thought we could reduce our consumption by 25 per cent? Like, that’s doable. Well actually it’s not.

“We’ve all got to take stock of the realities here, of where we want to go with the cost that’s involved.”

Targets were established in the “Community Environmental Roadmap” of 2008. These targets will now be re-evaluated by the city, in conjunction with the 2017-18 budget cycle.

One target was to have 25 per cent of residential energy provided from renewable sources by 2025. Currently this rate is at 6.7 per cent. While the city has had initiatives like $1.1 million in HAT Smart rebates, the concentrated solar thermal project and a power purchase agreement for wind power, to meet the original goal would require either nine additional wind turbines or 8,600 residential solar PV installations.

“Just to put that in perspective, the 8,600 residential solar PV would cost $64.5 million in investment,” said utilities business support department manager Jaret Dickie, and within the current financial and economic climate.

Targets also included a 20 per cent reduction in household energy consumption by 2020, and 15 per cent reduction in water usage. While reduction occurred, it isn’t to the levels needed to ensure the target is met.

Another goal was reducing residential waste to the landfill to 500 kilograms per capita by 2015. The current level is 752 kg.

One met target was all drinking water, waste water and storm water meeting or exceeding required provincial guidelines. Some residents have concerns about water colour, but Cocks said this water still meets standards.

In some cases, goals – such as air quality – were impacted by things out of the city’s control, such as wildfires in recent years. Residential waste levels were impacted during the 2013 flood.

Programs like HAT Smart, developing a waste management strategy have been a part of the city’s efforts to meet these goals. Dickie said one upcoming HAT Smart focus will be on water conservation.

Education is also important.

“We’ve been communicating and communicating with the public but are we educating them on what waste diversion is, what water conservation is?” said Dickie. “I think we’re missing an element there so … educating them on why these issues are important.”

“We’ve educated our children that conservation is good, that there is global warming, that we need to reduce our carbon footprint, all of those things are accurate and true statements,” said Cocks. “What we haven’t necessarily done is show that if we want to do these things – if we think this is where we want to go – there’s a very high cost.”

The low price in oil and gas right now makes renewable energy a harder sell, he said.

It’s also not something the city can do alone.

“We need the consumer to moderate their behaviour. One of the greatest impacts on behaviour modification is price – so it may drive price up.”