Milestone Five

Population PCP member since GHG reduction target
400,000 1997
  • Corporate: 30% below 2008 levels by 2020
  • Community: 20% below 2008 levels by 2020; 80% by 2050

Halifax solar home

Halifax is a leader when it comes to energy efficiency and the environment, and I know our citizens are equally involved in efforts to help reverse climate change. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to do everything we can now to ensure they inherit a better world tomorrow.
— Mike Savage, Mayor, City of Halifax

The City of Halifax adopted its corporate plan to reduce emissions in 2008 and by 2011 had achieved Milestone 5. By that time, the city had reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by more than 10,000 tonnes per year through a combination of energy efficiency retrofits and more efficient building designs. Adopting renewable energy systems (geothermal and solar) and converting its traffic signals, as well as some streetlights, to LEDs also helped to reduce emissions. 

In 2009, the city created a sustainable building fund to redirect energy cost savings from these initiatives toward funding for future projects. Since then, the fund's annual energy savings deposits have grown from $350,000 to over $750,000, and have helped to finance millions of dollars' worth of energy upgrades, including those undertaken through the city's Solar City initiative. Through this award-wining program, homeowners can take advantage of municipal financing to install solar-powered water heating systems, which lead to lower energy bills and reduced water consumption. To date, more than 350 homeowners have installed the systems. 
With an updated 2011 corporate sustainability plan and community-wide efforts, Halifax continues working to achieve its aggressive emissions reduction targets through energy conservation, improved efficiency, and greater use of cleaner, renewable energy sources.
The city received support for Milestones 3 and 4 from FCM's Green Municipal Fund (GMEF 5248 and GMEF 5285). 

Key projects and results

BMO Centre

The BMO Centre is Canada's most energy-efficient four-rink arena. Waste heat from the facility's refrigeration system heats shower water and locker room floors, and provides additional space heating. The BMO Centre produces approximately three times the heat required for facility operations, so Halifax is investigating a small district energy system in the neighbourhood to make use of this excess heat.


  • LEED® Gold certified facility
  • System is complemented by other features including natural lighting, advanced lighting control, radiant heating and an ice battery storage unit for cooling
  • Efficient design reduces GHG emissions by more than 500 tonnes per year compared to a conventional facility


  • Relatively low installation costs for heat recovery system; roughly $650,000 of the total $40 million construction cost
  • With annual savings of about $175,000, payback period is less than four years


  • In-floor heating makes change rooms more comfortable and dries melted ice from skates faster
  • Arena's heated seats improve spectator comfort

Gordon R. Snow Community Centre

The Gordon R. Snow Community Centre is Halifax's second municipally owned LEED certified building. Built with low-emitting construction materials, the design features geothermal energy for heating and cooling, a greywater rooftop collection cistern, and other fixtures. 


  • Water consumption cut by 30 per cent
  • 75 per cent of construction waste diverted from landfill
  • Annual GHG emissions are 40 per cent less compared to standard community centre/fire station design


  • Annual energy savings are about $50,000, giving the project an eight-year payback


  • Educational opportunities on benefits of LEED certified buildings 
  • Enhanced lighting and comfort for clients
  • Provisions for clients to use sustainable transportation, such as bike parking facilities, electric vehicle charging units and carpool-only parking spaces

Alderney 5 district energy system

This $3.6 million energy retrofit services five municipal buildings and is the first large-scale application of geothermal seasonal cold-energy storage in the world. It features a geothermal borehole system with a heat exchanger design that is 300 per cent more efficient than traditional designs. The system harvests cold energy from seawater during the winter to chill an underground rock mass, then uses the stored thermal energy to meet summer cooling needs. THE CITY partnered with the provincial government and the federal Technology Early Action Measures program to undertake the project.


  • 100 per cent renewable energy eliminates 410,000 litres of furnace oil and 900 kilograms of CFC-based refrigerants previously required for heating and cooling
  • GHG emissions reduced by 900 tonnes per year


  • Estimated $350,000 annual electricity savings, compared to $850,000 without the retrofit 
  • Avoided $830,000 in capital costs for boiler, oil tank, and air conditioning equipment replacements


  • High community interest, with 500-plus visitors at a 2013 Doors Open event which included a Geo-Energy vault tour 
  • Reducing emissions from fuel oil and coal-fired electricity improves local air quality


  • Halifax's number one environmental challenge is sea level rise.Some infrastructure assets, including its one-kilometre long seawall, have already been impacted. It will cost an estimated $5 million to elevate the seawall by two metres.
  • Severe storms and stormwater runoff have also affected roads and wastewater infrastructure. Adaptation is underway, but preserving older, existing assets is a constant financial pressure.
  • Lack of resources to undertake renewable energy projects.

Lessons learned

  • Senior leadership is key and has been consistent over time and through many council changes. FCM also plays a big role in giving council confidence and showing that their ideas and initiatives are not outliers.
  • Municipal action on climate change comes down to integration, planning and execution.
  • Achieving GHG reduction targets has cost less, been easier to implement, and saved more money than expected.

Halifax: Building a Solar City

Learn more about the innovative Solar City program, for which Halifax won a 2015 FCM Sustainable Communities Award.

Milestone Completion

  • Milestone 1 — 2005 (Corp.) 2005 (Comm.)
  • Milestone 2 — 2005 (Corp.) 2005 (Comm.)
  • Milestone 3 — 2005 (Corp.) 2006 (Comm.)
  • Milestone 4 — 2007 (Corp.), In Progress (Comm.)
  • Milestone 5 — 2011 (Corp.), In Progress (Comm.)

Partners and collaborators

Project Contacts

Shannon Miedema
Acting Manager of Energy & Environment 
City of Halifax
T. 902-490-3665

Mike Savage
City of Halifax
T. 902-490-4010


PCP Secretariat
T. 613-907-6392

PCP and ICLEI logo

This resource is available through the Partners for Climate Protection (PCP) program. PCP is managed and delivered by FCM and ICLEI—Local Governments for Sustainability Canada (ICLEI Canada) and receives financial support from the Government of Canada and ICLEI Canada.

© 2021 Federation of Canadian Municipalities