Huron County considers joining new Carbon Footprint Initiative - Dec. 21, 2017
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Huron County Council is now considering the county’s potential involvement in the Carbon Footprint Initiative, an energy-saving program rolled out through the Maitland Valley Conservation Authority.
Rachel White, the county’s stewardship co-ordinator, spoke to council about the idea at its Dec. 13 committee of the whole meeting, saying that the county has already begun taking on energy-saving projects. This, she said, would simply be another step along that journey.
White’s recommendation to council was that the county participate in the Carbon Footprint Initiative for energy-conservation projects, but that that participation would be subject to available staff resources and budget.
She said that after presenting a conservation demand management plan update to council in August, council had requested another presentation and some more information on the potential of the county joining up with the Carbon Footprint Initiative. The project, White said, brings together those in both the private and the public sectors who want to maximize profits, but not at the risk of environmental sustainability.
“The Carbon Footprint Initiative members track their energy use and set annual targets for energy reduction,” White said in her report to council. “Examples of energy-saving projects include training for staff, reducing fuel use of the fleet by changing travel practices or purchasing more fuel-efficient vehicles, including electric cars. The Carbon Footprint Initiative combats climate change by investing in tree planting or natural area restoration projects to compensate for fossil fuel use. The Carbon Footprint Initiative members have provided funding for two stewardship projects in the Listowel area, as well as other projects implemented on their own properties.”
White said that with all of the tree-planting projects in the county, as well as all of the sustainably-managed county forests, the county has a built-in offset for many projects that could make many Carbon Footprint Initiative goals attainable. The Huron Clean Water Project could also help with those offsets as well.
Many of the current county projects are already aligning with the initiative’s goals and White said the county is already showing a 1.9 per cent reduction in energy use when comparing 2016 to 2013.
“This has primarily been achieved by implementing projects such as building renovations or replacing outdated equipment to reduce energy use in county-owned buildings,” White said in her report.
She said that while it’s not a requirement of the county’s current conservation and demand management plan to track fuel use of the county’s fleet, the county may wish to pursue that in the future.
Councillors were divided on this aspect of the recommendation. Some felt that the county wasn’t ready to track its mileage and fuel consumption, but others felt that tracking the fuel use may be a good start so the county knows where it stands.
“From 2005-2017, the County of Huron has invested $4.1 million in private land stewardship projects that have a water quality benefit. The county is theoretically carbon-neutral due to the reforestation component of the Clean Water Project,” White said. “For instance, the trees planted in 2013 through the Clean Water Project will, in their lifetime, sequester nine times the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the county that year. There are additional carbon offsets, such as improved forest health as a result of the Clean Water Project incentive funding for forest management plans by professional foresters or the cover crop incentive, which builds soil organic matter.”
While what the county is already doing is certainly a good start, White said that there would be more to it if the county wished to be a full-fledged member of the Carbon Footprint Initiative.
“The county is currently implementing several energy-saving initiatives through the conservation and demand management plan, which is required under the Green Energy Act,” White said. “To participate in the Carbon Footprint Initiative, county staff resources would be required to attend meetings and draft and implement a carbon footprint strategy that could include tracking the fuel use of the county’s fleet. It is the opinion of the conservation committee that there are additional energy-saving opportunities that the county could take advantage of, subject to available resources.”
The county will consider White’s report and further investigate potentially being part of the Carbon Footprint Initiative in the new year.