Penticton achieves milestones for carbon reduction

Penticton has established goal to reduce its operational GHG emissions 15 per cent from 2009 levels by 2015

The City of Penticton has a new trophy to show off in the display case. Well, three-fifths of one, anyway.

However, Coun. Garry Litke, who represents city council on the Climate Action Advisory Committee, is very proud of the partial trophy. The three portions of the award, which is constructed as a puzzle, represent the three milestones Penticton has achieved for carbon reduction, out of the five set out by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

Milestone one, Litke said, was creating an inventory of the city’s current carbon emissions.

“That required quite a bit of work and expertise to go around the city and check our buildings to see just how much carbon we are polluting our cities with,” said Litke.

Once that was done, the city needed to set a goal for reduction and come up with a plan to get there.

“If it weren’t for the milestones, then we wouldn’t have our implementation plan so soon,” said Carolyn Stewart, Penticton’s environmental co-ordinator.

With those three milestones achieved, the FCM recognized Penticton’s achievement with the puzzle award.

“We have the first three pieces of the puzzle and we are beginning to implement the plan,” said Litke. “Milestone four we will get when we begin to prove that we are making a change and milestone five is when we report out to the FCM to say that we have achieved our goals.”

Penticton has established its B.C. Climate Action Charter goals to include reducing its operational GHG emissions 15 per cent from 2009 levels by 2015, and 20 per cent from 2009 levels by 2020.

That fifth piece of the puzzle might be a few years down the road, according to Litke, who said it took some time to get the city moving, even though it signed on to the Climate Action Charter in 2007.

“For a couple of years, it was lip service, really. Council didn’t provide any budget item for it, or a staff person to devote any time to it,” said Litke. “The last council decided to take some action and allocated a staff person and some budget line items to fund the commitment.”

It’s a win-win situation for the city, according to Litke, who estimates the city spends about $120,000 per year on heating, cooling and lighting its buildings.

“Although this takes a little bit of staff time and money to do, the payback is enormous,” said Litke.  “Not only do we help protect the environment, but we also save a lot of money on energy costs. By making our buildings more efficient, we can reduce those costs by about 40 per cent.”

Several steps have been taken to reduce the city’s carbon footprint. More than 300 lights were replaced with high-efficient fluorescent lights, and the city’s electrical department analyzed various street lights to determine energy and financial savings, and the resulting LED street light pilot program received universally positive comments from the public in affected areas. The rebuilt community centre also received LEED Silver certification, and the facility’s high energy efficiency plays an integral part of reducing emissions.

Looking to the future, retrofits totalling $400,000 to improve energy efficiency in city buildings were included in the 2012 budget, and fleet rating initiatives will help pinpoint which vehicles require emissions optimization.