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Every two weeks we’ll speak with game-changing experts to bring you the latest on the fast-changing energy landscape, innovative technologies, eco-conscious efforts, and more. Join Hydro Ottawa’s Trevor Freeman as he demystifies and dives deep into some of the most prominent topics in the energy industry.

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Sep 14, 2020

Roughly 50 per cent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Canada are from municipalities. This means that cities have the opportunity to make a huge impact when it comes to shifting and improving energy habits. In this episode, Andrea Flowers – the Senior Project Manager for Environmental Programs, Planning, Infrastructure & Economic Development for the City of Ottawa – tells us all about the steps that Ottawa is taking, through an action plan called Energy Evolution, to reduce GHG emissions from the community by 100 per cent by 2050 and from City operations by 100 per cent by 2040.

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Dan Seguin  00:41

Well, everyone, welcome back. This is another episode of The ThinkEnergy podcast. In April 2019, the City of Ottawa, the nation's capital, declared a climate emergency. It was this declaration that signaled to the community at large that the municipal government was taking climate action very, very seriously. And that is why ramping up with its climate change master plan, its climate resiliency strategy, and a special project called Energy Evolution. It's clear the city recognize that municipalities can influence significant change over their own emissions. In fact, roughly 50% of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada are from municipalities. That means every town and every city in Canada can make a huge impact. By tackling climate change at the municipal level, on the ground sort of speak, municipalities can not only improve the quality of life for their residents, but also reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save money in operations and energy costs. Today, we're going to focus on Energy Evolution. This is the action plan for how the City of Ottawa will meet 100% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from its operations of the municipal government by 2040, and from the community, the entire city by 2015. In short, its vision is clear to transform Ottawa into a thriving city of the future powered by clean, renewable energy. Realizing Energy Evolution's vision will require concerted efforts and collaboration across all sectors of the community like never before. The strategy is guided by three components: reduce energy use through conservation and efficiency, increase the supply renewable energy through local and regional production, and prioritize the procurement of clean and renewable energy. Here is today's big question. How will Ottawa the nation's Capital go about to set its emission reduction targets. And what was the process to creating a climate action plan? Joining me today is a very special guest, Andrea Flowers, who is leading the development of the city of Ottawa's renewable energy strategy. Andrea, can you tell us a bit about you, the work that you do, and why global warming, climate change and clean energy means so much to you?

Andrea Flowers  03:37

Well, I have more than 15 years strategic climate change planning, policy development, project management, stakeholder engagement and public education. I've worked in the nonprofit private and public sector at the municipal, provincial and federal level. And over the last year and a half or so I've had the privilege of leading the City of Ottawa's as climate change and resiliency team. I think that climate change is the political and moral challenge of our time, and I think we all have a responsibility to learn about it and take action on it.

Dan Seguin  04:07

Can you tell us a bit about why Ottawa declared a climate emergency in 2019 and why the city needs a community energy transition strategy, like energy evolution?

Andrea Flowers  04:20

Ottawa declared a climate emergency to name, frame and deepen our commitment to protecting the economy or ecosystem in our community from climate change. Worldwide, climate scientists agree that fast rising global temperatures have created a climate emergency, and that we need to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius in order to avoid catastrophic climate change. At this point, there's hardly a week that goes by without hearing about climate change in the news. And so, cities across the country and around the world have declared climate change in order to take action on this issue and raise the profile of it. Since cities have an influence over about half the emissions in Canada, I think Ottawa like all other cities needs a strategy like energy evolution to respond to climate change. I also think that cities like all other levels of government have a responsibility to play in the leadership role of catalyzing the broader community, and helping us all collectively rise to the challenge. In Ottawa Energy Evolution is our strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the community 100% by 2050. In line with that global science and energy evolution hopes to transform Ottawa into a thriving city powered by clean renewable energy. But realizing Energy Evolution's vision will require concerted efforts and collaboration across all sectors of the community.

Dan Seguin  05:48

Andrea, wondering if you can expand on the scope and scale of changes required for Ottawa to reduce GHG emissions below the 2020 levels by 2050. And what are the short, mid and long term targets?

Andrea Flowers  06:07

I'll start with the second part of the question for context. So as part of Council's approval of the new climate change master plan in Ottawa, short, mid and long term targets for greenhouse gas emissions were set, and they align with those inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change targets. So the IPCC targets to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. So community wide, the short term target is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 43% by 2025 and 68% by 2040 and 100% by 2050. And then the scope scale and the short timelines associated with those are really difficult to meet. I would say that meeting those targets will require both unprecedented action and Investment across the community and around the world. So to give you a sense of what that scope and scale means, we're going to have to phase out almost all fossil fuels. That means gas, natural gas and diesel, we're going to nearly fully electrify our heating and cooling systems are going to have to nearly fully electrify or go to zero emission transportation systems. For our personal vehicles or commercial fleets and our transit systems, we're going to have to start using more waste heat and renewable natural gas to meet our heating demands. And we're going to have to generate and store enough renewable energy, particularly electricity mostly from wind and solar to meet the demand and offset emissions that we currently have from Ontario's provincial grid.

Dan Seguin  07:51

based on your analysis, what are the biggest contributors to Ottawa's greenhouse gas emissions and how challenging will it be to shift away from those,

Andrea Flowers  08:03

let me be a bit of background. So Ottawa undertakes greenhouse gas emissions inventories every year so that we know where our emissions come from. And in 2018, the most recent year that we have right now, roughly 90% of the emissions in Ottawa came from the building and transportation sectors, basically how we heat and cool our homes and how we get around the city. And if we look at those emissions, and the contributing sources of emissions, then natural gas is by far the largest contributor in the community, followed by gasoline and diesel. Of course, given the scope and scale of the transportation system in our building sector, it's going to be really difficult to shift away from these emission sources. governments don't have control direct control over emissions, although of course they can influence them between policy and regulation or incentives and disincentives, but success is going to depend to a large extent on private action. It's going to take billions of dollars of public and private capital to make community wide investments over the next 30 years. And to meet those targets that we set, the upfront investments over the next 10 years will be the highest. But the good news is that our financial analysis shows there'll be a net financial benefit to society at large starting in early 2030, probably around 2032 when the net annual savings start to outpace the revenues generated and the savings generated compared to the annual investments required. And beyond the financial challenges. There's lots of federal and provincial governmental, regulatory barriers that prevent us from doing some of the actions required in the model. And then even beyond this, of course, there's risk that the public won't make or accept the types of changes required. And I'm cognizant of the fact that there's a huge Equity and Inclusion risk for this transition. We need to find ways that everybody can participate in climate solutions, and not just the people who can afford it.

Dan Seguin  10:14

In your view, do you feel that public acceptance is a challenge? Can anyone participate in climate solutions? Are there any barriers?

Andrea Flowers  10:23

I'm a champion in this sector. I also own an EV. And I cycle almost everywhere. I've done deep retrofits on my home, and they're all really challenging choices to make for all kinds of reasons: where to start, how to prioritize how to actually do it. You're highlighting some of the other challenges in public acceptance and just our ability to make these changes.

Dan Seguin  10:50

The intergovernmental panel on climate change has said that limiting global warming to 1.5 Celsius is possible. But will require far reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society. In order to achieve this at the local level, what type of changes can we expect from the city and even from ourselves

Andrea Flowers  11:14

Well, when we look at Energy Evolution, we've broken it down in a total of five sectors on to figure out how we can achieve a 100% reduction by 2050. The five sectors are land use buildings, transportation, waste, and renewable natural gas and electricity. And four out of the five sectors really rely on land use as sort of a base element to the whole model. If we look at the model itself, the building and transportation sectors account for roughly 75% of all the cumulative emission reductions from now until 2050. And the remaining 25% will have to come from waste and renewable natural gas and electricity sectors. The model itself then takes those five sectors and it breaks it down into 39 actions. And those 39 actions tell us sort of the scale of change required in each of the actions. If we think about what the top five emissions are, I said 75% of the reductions will come from the buildings and transportation sector. So it's no surprise that four of these five come from those areas includes by far the largest action, which is to electrify personal electric vehicles. So about 20% of the 100% of emissions that we need to achieve will come from the electrification of personal vehicles. The second most important action is to divert organics and create renewable natural gas so we need to divert our our kitchen waste our yard and leaf waste away from landfills where we create very a powerful GHG emission called methane. And we need to divert both methane that's produced out landfills and methane, which we could capture through anaerobic digesters and create renewable natural gas. So luckily the city is right now doing a new solid waste master plan. And there they are seeking input on what to do with our organics. The third most important action is to retrofit existing residential buildings and the fourth is to retrofit existing commercial buildings. Now, we're not talking about just air sealing and new windows or insulation in the attic. We're talking about deep retrofits, we're talking about retrofits which will reduce natural gas consumption by about 60%, or at least our thermal or heating demand by about 60%. And we're talking about reducing our electrical demand by about 50%. So deep deep retrofits throughout the residential and commercial and institutional sectors, and then the fifth, like the top five action is to transition to zero emission commercial fleets. And, again, this will likely be electrification of commercial fleets. But we haven't ruled out fuel cells either.

Dan Seguin  14:23

Ottawa has defined its greenhouse gas emission targets and states that one of the ways it will meet them is by increasing the supply of renewable energy through local and regional production and prioritizing the procurement of clean renewable energy. Can you walk us through the targets and how the city will increase the supply of renewable energy?

Andrea Flowers  14:48

Well, achieving the 100% scenario will definitely put an increasing demand on electricity production and the delivery of electricity. So right now renewable energy projects are required to contribute about 8.5% towards the 100% scenario by 2050. Now, the targets are aggressive. So to meet our 2030 targets under the 100% scenario, collectively, we'll have to install a significant amount of clean, renewable energy. We're talking 631 megawatts of solar in the residential, commercial and utility sectors, but 100 megawatts in wind, 18 megawatts in hydro power, and three megawatts in biogas. And by 2030, we would also have to increase our storage to about 73 megawatts to reduce curtailment of renewable generation from 90% to 85%. And those, those are all our 2030 targets, they become even more aggressive in 2050. So how are we going to do it? What kind of things are we thinking about? Well, sort of more broadly in the community. We love to ramp up solar generation at a faster pace for at least the next five years, initially through a rooftop strategy, because on site net metering is the only available opportunity to connect with renewable energy generation to the grid. And then also because of the relative scarcity of renewable fuels, fuel based cogeneration can't be installed unless there is a rationale for doing so, to reduce the redundancy requirement or to support specific electricity system requirements. Existing co-gen plants that don't meet these criteria should retire as opportunities arise. And we'll be looking for a sizable amount of battery or other powered storage capacity to ensure that variable renewable generation can be shifted as we as periods of surplus, you know, vary between high demand and the relative curl curtailment of renewable generation.

Dan Seguin  16:59

What are some of the best benefits that your project Energy Evolution will bring to the city and its residents. Does it include economic development and maybe...what else?

Andrea Flowers  17:10

There's lots of benefits associated with Energy Evolution beyond the obvious reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. Certainly economic development is a key one. From that perspective, supporting Ottawa's local businesses in the transition towards a low carbon economy will help companies reduce their operating costs. And it represents an opportunity to create good quality local jobs and attract investment. Right now. ottawans spend about $3 billion a year on energy costs and most of that leaves the city so if we can generate more energy locally, we can keep a greater share of the energy dollars within our local economy. Canada's clean energy sector is growing faster than almost any other sector and it's attracting 10s of billions of dollars in investment every year. Already are clean energy sector accounts for about 300,000 jobs in Canada. And as part of the financial analysis, and part of the energy and emissions modeling we did for energy pollution. We looked at job creation and we predict for for building retrofits alone, we could generate as many as 38,000 jobs here in Ottawa. And then to your other part of your question beyond economic development, there's there's also other benefits. From a public health perspective, we expect that air quality could improve as we move away from fossil fuels causing a reduction in health related effects like heart disease and breathing problems. We hope that physical and mental health would improve as we get out and cycle and walk more instead of using personal vehicles. We may see an improvement in sleep patterns as the reduced noise levels from vehicles as we transition from fuels to electric vehicles which are much quieter. And as we insulate buildings to improve our heating. And then finally, there's also benefits associated with energy security and resiliency. With an increasing number of extreme events like ice storms and tornadoes. increasing our local renewable generation and supply provides affordable energy to residents and businesses and could help  with uninterrupted levels of service during those extreme weather events.

Dan Seguin  19:28

Through an energy lens, what role will conservation and efficiency play in lowering greenhouse gas emissions for Ottawa? Where is that low hanging fruit?

Andrea Flowers  19:42

Well, Energy Evolution's model is built on a conservation first scenario. It uses an integrated model approach. So if conservation doesn't happen first, we will effectively just run out of zero emission energy. The model looks at conservation and efficiencies across all sectors including Buildings transportation, electricity and natural gas. And really the low hanging fruit in that list is the electrification of private vehicles. So a gas power train has a fuel to wheels efficiency in the 20-30% range, whereas, a battery electric is more like a 90% efficiency range. So in our modeling, there's no other single measure which conserves as much primary energy as the conversion from gas or diesel to electric vehicles.

Dan Seguin  20:30

Not to brag, but Hydro Ottawa has been in the renewable energy business for more than 130 years, and currently has built in clean generation to power a third of the city. Andrea, how important was it to engage with strategic partners like Hydro Ottawa, and Envari energy solutions?

Andrea Flowers  20:52

Yeah. Well, first of all, thank you. It's, it's amazing that hydro Ottawa and their subsidiaries have become such a leader. In green energy and it is critical for us to work with partners like Hydro Ottawa. Throughout the development of energy evolution, we've worked with more than 200 strategic partners and technical experts and we know that the city alone can't achieve the scale of emission reductions required and that everybody has a role to play. Fortunately, Hydro Ottawa and its subsidiaries and Envari and Portage Power have been there. Since the beginning of the energy evolution process. They've provided input technical expertise, and you've been very generous about creating platforms like this one to amplify the messaging and engage broader audiences. Without Hydro Ottawa, it is highly unlikely that energy evolution could succeed. The 100% GHG reduction scenario foresees electrical demand more than doubling by 2050. So we need to work together to align our planning and forecasting identify opportunities and advocate together for policy changes at the provincial level. It's wonderful that hydro Ottawa has a long history of renewable energy generation and we need to keep expanding it. As I said earlier, local generation is key to meeting our targets since the province doesn't currently have plans to generate electricity with zero emissions grid. And because there's so many opportunities for economic development here locally.

Dan Seguin  22:25

The transport sector accounts for approximately a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions and is one of the major sectors where emissions are still rising. Electrification is widely considered an attractive solution for reducing the dependency and environmental impact of road transportation. Where does the city stand with electrification of fleets like buses, EV charging stations, and maybe ebikes.

Andrea Flowers  22:55

Now well, I'll go back to the beginning of the question for a minute because if transportation sector accounts for a quarter of global emissions. It's actually quite a bit higher in Ottawa. So community wide, by in 2018. Ottawa's transportation sector accounted for about 44% of Ottawa's GHG emissions. And partly that's because we don't have a large industrial base here in Ottawa, whereas globally, that would play a more significant role. But 44% of emissions in Ottawa are coming from the transportation sector. And in order to meet our 100% scenario target, transportation, we'll need to account for about 37% of our GHG reduction targets emissions. And the city's corporate target is to reduce GHG emissions 100% by 2040. And you'll notice that that's about 10 years earlier than the community. So in the model for our city operations, the model calls for fleets including our own transit and municipal fleets like by-law police ambulance calls for our fleet. To be zero emission by 2030. And then our commercial fleets to be up to can take a bit longer up to 2040. But the transition to zero emission must be a steady and incremental progress. You can't hit the target by backloading the model because then the the emissions are compounding. And although we expect that electrification will be key for the electrification of fleets, we haven't totally ruled out fuel cells. We have however, rolled out internal combustion power trains, even if they use a carbon neutral fuel, because they simply aren't as efficient. In terms of where does the city stand with electrification of our fleets and buses. The city has a corporate policy to include EV chargers at all new facilities and we're considering revising the policy to include EV chargers when we do major renovations or retrofits at City facilities. We continue to grow our own Electric fleet just in the last couple of weeks, the City of Ottawa has purchased four new hyundai konas for bylaw services, and there's some great information on about that. And then in terms of public chargers or general stances that we don't want to, we don't want to have any additional barriers to purchasing private electric vehicles. So we want to do what we can to ensure that there is sufficient public charging in municipal facilities and on municipal lands to support that. So the city is installing a new fast charger at Bob McCrory and it'll be a 150 kilowatt fast charger. And then we've partnered with Eydro Ottawa and Envari to install 13 new doubleheader chargers on city right away throughout the city. So those We'll be going in hopefully by the end of 2020. Back to the question around ebikes. We're encouraged by developments in E bikes and E scooters. And they certainly fit broadly under active transportation in the energy evolution strategy. But we haven't yet given them any detailed focus. So there is increasing interest amongst the public and it's a gap that we know we haven't addressed yet.

Dan Seguin  26:28

As an example of conservation efficiency, are you able to talk about the city's LED streetlight conversion project and what the results have been?

Andrea Flowers  26:38

Well, overall, it's been a resounding success. We've already met our energy and maintenance targets. Maintenance savings have given a knock off reduction in GHG emissions from a reduction in the deployment of service vehicles. And I would say, generally, the project seems to have helped with general widespread acceptance of conservation. And that helps us sell the concept of conservation in other areas across the city and the community as well. By the end of the project, I think that we will have changed more than 58,000 light fixtures to LEDs. And we will have reduced our energy by 60%, reduced GHG emissions by thousand tons per year and our operating costs by close to $5 million. So it's a resounding success. We've also seen co-benefits like reduced light pollution and although I've yet to confirm it with a biologist, I've heard anecdotally that the conversion of LED lights is starting to bring back fireflies into the city because the different color of light makes it easier for the fireflies to communicate amongst themselves. So on my to do list is to confirm that with a biologist but I think it is an interesting little tidbit and I choose to think that it may be true.

Dan Seguin  27:54

Okay, you alluded to this earlier, so wondering if you could expand on what role will energy storage have in lowering the city's carbon future.

Andrea Flowers  28:06

Thermal storage, renewable natural gas and battery storage all have a role to play in meeting Ottawa's GHG reduction targets. Thermal storage will likely be the most important kind of storage both seasonally and on a shorter term basis. So, seasonally or longer term storage will be important for how we operate geothermal systems and shorter term storage will be more buildings specific and could help us shave peak demands. Although we call exclusively for renewable natural gas in the model,  the gas grid will provide less energy than it does today and it will continue to be a large source of storage likely able to meet all demand without any supply for several weeks. And then finally, we need battery storage and the 100% model for electrical grid stability to manage variable generation. battery storage is required to reduce the curtailment renewable generation during periods of low demand, and although it's not modeled, we see the potential for storage to help with the economic competitiveness of electricity. And this ultimately will be important in helping Ottawa achieve our targets.

Dan Seguin  29:15

Okay, Andrea, let's close this off with some rapid fire questions. I hope you're ready.

Andrea Flowers  29:23


Dan Seguin  29:24

What is your favorite word?

Andrea Flowers  29:27

Zither - such a fun word to say it's a quirky instrument like a harp. You play on your lap and I've had one since a child and it's it's a fun word to say. I played the zither.

Dan Seguin  29:41

What is the one thing you can't live without?

Andrea Flowers  29:44

My man.

Dan Seguin  29:46

What is something that challenges you

Andrea Flowers  29:49

the status quo

Dan Seguin  29:51

If you had one superpower, just one, what would it be?

Andrea Flowers  29:55

Ah the ability to show people the future so that we can really see what the consequences of our actions and our decisions are.

Dan Seguin  30:05

If you could turn back time and talk to your 18 year old self, what would you tell her?

Andrea Flowers  30:10

Ah, I would say just follow a path of love. And you will find love in all aspects of your life. Trust that the things that you're interested in, will lead you interesting places and that the path might not always be clear, but there will always be something interesting along the way.

Dan Seguin  30:34

And lastly, what do you currently find most interesting in your sector?

Andrea Flowers  30:39

The intersection between science and politics. It's complex and interconnected and evolving quickly, so it is ever changing.

Dan Seguin  30:51

Well, Andrea, we've reached the end of another episode of The ThinkEnergy podcast. I hope you had a lot of fun. Last question for you. How can our listeners learn more about you, your organization, how can they connect?

Andrea Flowers  31:05

Well, to be honest, I think that they need to learn less about me and more about the important work that the City is doing and this project in particular Energy Evolution. If you want to learn more about climate change in Ottawa, then you can visit And there you'll find links to both the mitigation work we do on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions like Energy Evolution, as well as our adaptation work and how we will build a more resilient future for Ottawa in the face of a changing climate. So, lots of ways and lots of other ways to connect on there, you can go to or There you have a chance to sign up for our E newsletter, which focuses on climate change. You can learn more about the projects and how to get involved and You can take a survey on that tells us what kind of barriers you face on implementing climate action.

Dan Seguin  32:09

Thank you for joining us today. I truly hope you enjoyed this episode of The ThinkEnergy podcast. For past episodes, make sure you visit our website Lastly, if you found value in this podcast Be sure to subscribe. Cheers, everyone.