Canada’s Investment in Local Sustainability and Beyond

As of April 7th, the federal government, together with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) have made a $23 million investment through FCM’s Green Municipal Fund to create an energy system for Ottawa-Gatineau’s Zibi waterfront that will allow the community to achieve carbon-neutrality.

Zibi is the Algonquin Anishinabe word for ‘river’, and this project is so named as it is located in the brownfield lands along the Ottawa River. The development, featuring millions of square feet of commercial space, housing for more than 5,000 people, and almost eight acres of riverfront greenspaces, is set to become the regions’ first-ever net-zero community. Currently in year five out of fifteen, the first buildings are scheduled to open this fall.

A significant aspect of achieving the net-zero goal is the neutrality of the building heating and cooling systems. A district energy system that uses locally-generated hydroelectricity, river-coupled cooling and waste industrial heat from the adjacent Kruger Products plant. A network of hydraulic loops will interconnect all buildings, making this innovative system the first in North America to use post-industrial waste heat recovery as a community utility.

Notable environmental benefits include:

  • Net-zero CO2e emissions (1,010 tonnes CO2e/year below baseline)
  • Energy consumption reduction of 27,576 GJ below baseline (61.5%)
  • Reduction of the effluent temperature of water being returned to the Ottawa River in winter from 20C to 6C, removing a pocket of water that can support invasive species in winter months

GMF supports innovation at the municipal level, which has resulted in many transformative environmental initiatives over the last 20 years since its inception. According to the president of FCM Garth Frizzell, municipalities are leaders in climate change action and there must be support provided for local environmental efforts. Leveraging local solutions is essential to improving sustainability and achieving the goals set in Paris, making the GMF is an important and valuable tool of the federal government.

“Investing in innovative solutions to reduce emissions is critical to tackling climate change,” according to Canada’s Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Catherine McKenna. Positioned as it is to potentially become the most sustainable community in Canada, Zibi’s president Jeff Westeinde urges that this is not about creating a “showpiece” (although it is the first in Canada to receive One Planet Living certification, a global framework developed by Bioregional and the World Wildlife Fund) but about making national progress: “Our hope is that Zibi’s Community Utility will not only achieve net-zero heating and cooling within Zibi but also that our project will become a model for communities around the world on how to create innovative partnerships that help them do the same.” Frizzell hopes that the Zibi project will be “replicated and scaled up across the country for deep national impact.”

Learn more at