Population PCP member since GHG reduction target
121,688. Projected growth of 2% per year to 180,000 by 2031 1998
  • Guelph's Community Energy Initiative (CEI) aims to reduce energy use in buildings, industry and transportation by 50% per capita and GHG emissions by 60% per capita by 2031, based on 2006 levels.

Solar roof Guelph Hydro

The Community Energy Initiative is a community plan in which city hall plays a key facilitating role; it's not a city hall plan imposed on the community. Ongoing public support is what gives community energy planning and its implementation much of the momentum and resources it needs to succeed.
Rob Kerr, Corporate Manager, Community Energy

In 2005, the Government of Ontario released the Places to Grow Act, allowing it to designate geographic regions that need further development to accommodate projected population growth. Designation as a provincial growth area helped to propel the City of Guelph's wide-ranging Community Energy Initiative (CEI). The city knew that to accommodate growth in a sustainable way, it needed a complete picture of its own resources, and a vision for the future.

A strategically chosen consortium of city, community and business partners came together to study the options, set goals and targets, and make recommendations. The resulting CEI identifies the city's assets and resources, and shows how sustainable growth can be supported through careful energy use planning. From the beginning, the plan has been integrated throughout city departments and the community, with individual sector targets feeding into the overall goals.  Despite population increases between 2006 and 2012, Guelph achieved a 17 per cent decrease in its 2012-2013 GHG emissions and a 25 per cent decrease in energy use, compared to 2006 levels.

Guelph received grants from FCM's Green Municipal Fund (GMF) to prepare a local growth management strategy, undertake the energy planning process, and conduct a feasibility study for a district energy system.

Karen Farbridge, mayor of Guelph, initiated the energy planning process and has been an active champion of the CEI ever since. "The Community Energy Initiative shows how a community can take control of its energy future, and how it can play a role and make a difference in the global issue of climate change."

Key projects and results

Community Energy Initiative

The Community Energy Initiative sets the city's energy and emission reduction goals and strategies. It has been supported by GMF (projects 7201 and 7281). Projects undertaken through the CEI include green fleets, building retrofits and renewable energy installations. 


  • 2012-2013 emissions dropped by 17 per cent and energy use by 25 per cent based on 2006 levels
  • Over 975 solar installations produce four million kilowatts of electricity per year
  • Reduced water consumption by six million litres of water per day and reduced related energy costs for water heating


  • Canadian Solar Solutions Inc., one of the world's largest solar panel manufacturers, is based in Guelph
  • 400 new jobs supported largely due to synergies provided by the CEI


  • Partnerships with local companies, cooperatives and community groups foster ongoing public engagement

District energy

Through a partnership with Envida Community Energy, the city is implementing two district energy (DE) systems that will be operational by 2014-2015. These systems underpin the city's goal to produce 50 per cent of the heat it requires by 2041. A GMF grant supported a feasibility study related to these systems (project 10178).


  • DE systems reduce emissions by eliminating heat losses from individual heating systems
  • DE systems can take different fuel inputs, which can further reduce emissions


  • DE systems are more efficient than standard heating systems and less expensive to operate
  • Economies of scale deliver lower costs for customers


  • Eliminating individual heating systems frees up building space

Mayor's Task Force on Community Energy

Chaired by Mayor Karen Farbridge, the Mayor's Task Force on Community Energy governs the CEI's implementation. It identifies barriers and provides direction on key activities.


  • Established Guelph as a corporate sustainability leader and helped set corporate reduction targets
  • Identified city facilities as early-stage DE customers and applied for two megawatts of solar photovoltaic systems


  • Positioned the CEI as a key part of the city's Economic Development Strategy, Prosperity 20/20
  • Ensured that CEI objectives were integrated into Guelph's Official Plan and Secondary Plan
  • Provides better support for local solar developers applying for a power purchase agreement


  • Open membership boosts community involvement
  • Provides resources to local non-profit groups that seek to engage the community on energy and GHG reductions


  • Guelph will continue to face growth related pressures. By 2031, the city estimates that it will need to add about 20,000 homes and 400,000-500,000 square metres of non-residential construction, and accommodate significant industrial growth.  
  • The city has frozen its municipal boundary until 2031, but believes it can accommodate this growth within the current boundary through efficient planning.

Lessons learned

  • Unexpected meetings can result in unexpected benefits. A chance meeting between a Guelph Hydro board member and energy expert Peter Garforth at a regulatory conference, led to Garforth's assistance in the early days of Guelph's community energy plan.
  • In a city with deep agricultural roots, energy became an obvious focus as a means to support sustainable growth. "Guelph has always been resource-focused in its role as supporting the growth our city," said Kerr, "so it was a matter of understanding our approach to managing existing resources - buildings, water, roads, basic infrastructure - and layering in the link to energy."

Milestone Completion

  • Milestone 1 — 2001 (Both)
  • Milestone 2 — 2007 (Corp.) 2012 (Comm.) 
  • Milestone 3 — 2010 (Corp.) 2012 (Comm.) 
  • Milestone 4 — 2013 (Both)
  • Milestone 5 — 2014 (Both)


Partners and collaborators


Rob Kerr
Manager, Community Energy
City of Guelph, ON
T. 519-822-1260 ext. 2079

Alex Chapman
Manager, Corporate Energy
City of Guelph, ON
T. 519-822-1260 ext. 3324

2019 Federation of Canadian Municipalities