Discussions into how the Town of Smithers will handle next year’s implementation of the carbon credit system are ongoing, with the first open house discussion tentatively scheduled for early next month.
They first started hiring a consultant to help them put together a community and corporate sustainability plan a couple of years ago, Mayor Cress Farrow said, when the provincial government started talking about carbon offsets, with requiring communities who aren’t net zero to purchase carbon offsets.
“We’re using way too much fuel within communities, we’re not heating buildings efficiently, so the whole purpose of today’s meeting is to come up with a plan on how we can reduce the outputs that we do have going out and the penalties that could occur if we’re not able to reduce these in a manner that’s acceptable both to the federal and provincial government,” Farrow said.
Those penalties could be substantial, Farrow said, if things don’t change, which is why they took a proactive approach in hiring Russ Haycock from Hyla Environmental to create a management plan with initiatives.
The town will be responsible for buying carbon offsets for its corporate greenhouse gas emissions that include all of its buildings, vehicles, construction, outdoor lighting and town-owned recreational facilities.
Using 2003 as a base year to judge emissions, it was good to see that, overall, the town’s emissions have only increased by four per cent, Haycock said.
As it stands, Haycock says the biggest opportunity within town is the arena. By investing into more environmentally friendly lights and cooling and devising a way to capture the heat that is generated, which currently is released into the atmosphere, the town could see a savings of 20 to 30 tonnes of C02 emissions annually. As the arena is a large part of the Town of Smithers corporate responsibility, it makes sense to start there, Haycock said.
“Probably more than half the cost of heating the pool could be used from just capturing the heat at the arena,” Farrow said. “It would be substantial.”
Things get a little more complicated when it comes to the community side of the emissions plan. The town has no overt control over how residences and businesses deal with their emissions, but the Town of Smithers plan does have to incorporate community initiatives as well. Ideas there included hosting information sessions, implementing an anti-idling bylaw, to more costly initiatives such as installing bike lanes throughout town and installing a district energy system.
“Most [improvements] will make you money over time,” Haycock pointed out.
They’ve already made a number of changes that have saved them energy, Farrow said. The new municipal building is way more efficient than the old one, and they’ve switched out their natural gas zamboni for an electric model.
The challenge with these initiatives is the up front cost, Farrow said, which is often high in most cases. Revenue neutral projects would be optimal, and council would be on the lookout for grant funding available to help whenever possible.
In fact, by having this plan the Town of Smithers would put themselves in a more favourable position when vying for infrastructure grants, Farrow said.
“If you have a well-built plan with a good business case you are much more likely to succeed in getting grant funding,” Farrow said.
Public input for the plan and it’s potential upgrades is crucial, both Farrow and Haycock said, which is why there will be two public input opportunities.
The first, tentatively scheduled for May 4 at 5 p.m., will be accompanied by a formal presentation by council and will go over why the plan is necessary and see what the public would like to have in it.
“We want people to tell us, you know, are you prepared for our council to move in that direction,” Farrow said. “It does come at a cost, everything does come at a cost, so are you prepared for an increase in taxes…what would you willing to pay to make things more carbon neutral in our community?”