How people and technology have inspired sustainability and climate action in Caledon

How people and technology have inspired sustainability and climate action in Caledon

Katelyn McFadyen, Manager of Energy and Environment for the Town of Caledon, discusses the push for sustainability through the use of technology and emp...

Caledon, located in southern Ontario and an hour’s drive from Toronto, is a shining example of the positive impact that can be generated through sustainability initiatives at the municipal level. Katelyn McFadyen, Manager of Energy and Environment at the Town of Caledon, and Cristina Guido, the Energy and Environment Specialist in McFadyen’s team, are enthusiastic and passionate about the impactful initiatives being enacted across the municipality. “I think it’s safe to say that, no matter the size of the municipality, you’re still able to be creative when addressing climate change,” says McFadyen. “The Energy and Environment division is responsible for providing corporate and community stakeholders with guidance and tools for addressing climate change, energy management and sustainable operations practices,” says McFadyen. “We do a lot of research and facilitation to build corporate and community capacity, so that projects that address climate change can be implemented collaboratively and effectively.”

The overarching aims of the Town’s corporate environmental initiatives can be boiled down to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and maximizing the efficiency of buildings and transport networks. “Energy consumption in buildings is our number one contributor to corporate GHG emissions,” says McFadyen. Guido is currently working on updating the Town’s corporate five-year energy management plan, which is set to be released in 2019. “It’s a requirement of the provincial government, but we took this as an opportunity to go beyond provincial regulations and expand this to broader corporate GHG emissions,” says Guido. “We’re assessing strategies to enhance operations and maintenance, and get our buildings to be as efficient as possible.” Through a collaborative partnership with the Town’s Corporate Energy Team, a group made up of the Town’s building operations specialists, Caledon is working to minimize emissions stemming from its buildings. This is being done through enhanced operational efficiency and conservation-focused retrofits. “We’re very fortunate to have the level of engagement from our Building Operations Team that we do,” says McFadyen. “They’re an incredible group of people who’ve totally embraced our corporate strategy and are actively engaged in – and excited about – efforts to leverage opportunities and retrofits to reduce energy consumption.”

At the outset of her time with the Town of Caledon, Guido was pivotal in the development of the Town’s building benchmarking initiative that McFadyen’s team has since used as a powerful indicator of building efficiency. The project is driven by RETScreen Expert, a software developed by Natural Resources Canada, a department of the Canadian Government. It streamlines the Town’s building benchmarking initiative as well as visualizing progress on Caledon’s goals. “RETScreen allows us to normalize for variables that drive energy consumption which staff cannot control, such as weather. This allows us to isolate factors such as heating degree days, cooling degree days, and the number of days arena ice is operational in facilities. For some facilities, we also look at recreation building booking hours and how this influences their energy performance,” says Guido. “We also use RETScreen to monitor progress towards our reduction targets. For example, our current corporate energy management plan has a target of a 9% reduction in building energy consumption, and we use the software to monitor how close we are to reaching that target,” explains Guido. Caledon is well on its way to meeting its current goals, and McFadyen enthuses that doing so is just the beginning.

Another major area of focus is transport, with McFadyen’s team working not only to reduce the GHG impact of Caledon’s fleet but also to lay the groundwork for future vehicular solutions. “One of our main focuses with Town-owned vehicles will be developing a corporate green fleet strategy and doing some modelling to see what types of lower-emission fuels are less harmful to the environment,” says Guido. Progress has already been made in this area, with McFadyen noting that the Town has developed a strong foundation for future electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure. “For a municipality of 70,000, we’re really proud that we have 13 publicly available EV charging stations, and six plug-in hybrid vehicles in our fleet,” she adds, noting that these successes are of particular importance to Caledon with its geographically large landscape. Through the Peel Climate Change Partnership, which involves the municipal governments of the Region of Peel, Town of Caledon, Cities of Mississauga and Brampton, Credit Valley Conservation Authority, and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, Caledon is helping to develop a new regional strategy to accelerate the adoption of low-emission and zero-emission vehicles by residents and businesses in Peel Region. Further actions earmarked for improvement in this area include a ramp-up of vehicle maintenance to maximize efficiency, as well as optimizing fleet route selection. “We’ve installed a GPS-based system into every vehicle in our fleet which could, for example, optimize routes for snow removal in the winter,” says McFadyen.

Automation-based technologies are also playing a part in the Town’s sustainability drive, such as the deployment of smart thermostats through many of its buildings and an algorithmic tool that collates utility bill data in the back end of Caledon’s energy management software. The benefits of such upgrades are far reaching: by being able to remotely control a building’s internal climate, McFadyen notes that operations teams no longer have to travel between locations to make adjustments, thereby reducing transport-based emissions. The algorithmic solution mitigates the risk of additional costs or disruptions accruing through mishandled or misinterpreted data, provides alert reports with consumption anomalies and enhances administrative elements of processing utility bills. The efficacy of these endeavors has been reflected in the awards that McFadyen’s team has received. “We were recognized by the Mayor’s Megawatt Challenge for a 10% reduction in energy usage in our Town Hall, and received similar recognitions for two of our recreation complexes,” says Guido, highlighting a handful of the many awards received from local associations and climate action drivers – but for the team, the satisfaction lies in the results themselves. “Something we really value is that once you implement a project you can see its results,” says Guido. “We can see these retrofits and then, on the data side, we can measure and see that they are saving energy and reducing emissions. It’s amazing to see the impact of our work and to know that we are making a difference.”

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