Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption is a key priority for many local governments and soon they might have a new tool to accomplish that goal.
A research team is creating a community energy and emissions computer simulation model to help governments enhance their capacity to reduce emissions and create sustainable projects.
The project is led by M.K. Jaccard and Associates and includes partnerships with the Regional District of Nanaimo, researchers in Simon Fraser University’s energy and materials research group and the Sunshine Coast Regional District. The project was recently awarded a $84,950 grant from the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions.
Chris Midgley, manager of energy and sustainability for the RDN, said being approached as a consultant for the project shows that people recognize the RDN’s leadership in sustainability projects.
“People recognize the Regional District of Nanaimo is working hard on some of these issues and it is a priority here,” said Midgley.
Zero Waste projects such as residential food waste collection and the landfill gas collection system, which collects methane from decomposing garbage at the landfill, are examples of how the RDN is working on creating sustainable alternatives, he said.
The project is still in its initial stages and the partners are deciding how to create the computer model.
“We are at a crossroads in terms of model development,” said Midgley.
The province already has the Community Energy and Emissions Inventory Reports, which is meant to help governments meet Climate Action Charter commitments and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The inventory tracks the community’s energy consumption and emissions through activities such a vehicle use, building use and solid waste.
Midgley said he doesn’t know if the model being developed will improve on the inventory or be entirely different.
He would like to build a different model instead of “reinventing the wheel” and hopes to create a tool governments can use to input information to help them decide what actions they can implement to create results.
Perhaps the model could let people input different scenarios and see the impacts on the community, such as what if everyone in the city had an electric vehicle instead of gas and how that would affect emissions, he said.
“It may sound simple, but it is actually quite complex,” he added.
Project leader Michael Wolinetz said many communities rely heavily on outside consultants for planning and the model is meant to help governments do more planning internally.
When the model is completed it will be available for free to all local governments. The project began in February and is expected to be complete this fall.