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2006 Energy

City of Calgary

Green Power Initiative — Target -50 City Of Calgary Climate Change Action Plan

Population: 878,866

Calgary has set its sights on reducing its corporate greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2012 and, based on its track record, the City is on its way to meeting that goal. The first phase of its corporate climate change plan included the first-ever wind-powered light rail transit system, the installation of methane gas capture systems at its landfills and wastewater treatment plant, and a building retrofit program to improve efficiency. These measures have already cut the City's emissions by more than 80,000 tonnes per year. The City signed a 20 year agreement with its wholly owned subsidiary, ENMAX Energy Corporation, to meet 75 percent of its electricity requirements from renewable sources, a move that will decrease emissions by more than 200,000 tonnes. The investment outlined in the agreement supports the development of a 37-turbine wind farm.


Between 1996 and 2001, Calgary's population grew by 14 percent, a higher growth rate than Toronto, Vancouver and Montréal, Canada's other large cities. To deal with such rapid growth, the City initiated the first phase of its climate change plan in 2001. The goal was to cut its own emissions by six percent below 1990 levels by 2012. Four years into the plan, the City had already reduced its emissions by four percent.

"Our philosophy has been to deliberately not go to the community in a lot of environmental performance areas because we believe in getting our own house in order first," says David Day, Calgary's Director of Environmental Management.

Calgary has a long track record of environmental "firsts." It was the first city in Canada to become certified to ISO 14001 (the International Organization for Standardization certification for environmental management systems), the first to use wind energy to power its light rail transit system, and the first Canadian municipality to reach all five milestones in FCM's Partners for Climate Protection (PCP) program.

"The PCP framework helped us develop Target -50 in the sense that it obliged us to have a plan," says Mr. Day. "PCP is a rigorous approach and includes third-party help. It's good to know that the same approach is shared by other municipalities."


  • Beginning January 1, 2007, 75 percent of the City's corporate electricity requirements will be met by renewable energy, with the potential to increase the amount to 90 percent by 2012. Emission reductions from using renewable sources of energy are estimated to be about 230,000 tonnes per year.
  • Phase I of a landfill gas capture and green electricity production project at two of the city's landfills is now complete. The combined electrical power from the two systems will meet all of the power needs for 575 homes and cut greenhouse gas emissions by about 18,500 tonnes per year.
  • A bioreactor pilot project at one of the City's landfills captures methane from organic waste and biosolids and converts it to electricity.
  • The City's Sustainable Building Policy, adopted in 2004, requires all new facilities over 500 m2 to attain a LEED Silver certification. In addition, as a spin-off from the City's leadership in sustainable building practices, the local building industry has established Built GreenTM, an information and expertise network that certifies homes built using environmentally friendly practices and products. More than 2,000 Calgary builders are registered with Built Green.
  • The City's EnviroSmart streetlight program retrofitted 37,500 residential streetlights to more energy-efficient lamps, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 16,000 tonnes per year.
  • Light-emitting diode (LED) traffic lights and pedestrian signals were also installed at all Calgary intersections, cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 8,600 tonnes.

Lessons Learned

  • THINK BIG. "Set your goals high," says Mr. Day. "You have to do these things for the right reasons, not just because someone says it's needed."
  • PARTNERSHIPS MATTER. Calgary has partnered with many organizations and has received praise from its local industries for its work on sustainable development issues. "We are turning the energy companies' attention to the fact that Calgary needs to be not only the energy capital of Canada, but the renewable energy capital of Canada," says Mr. Day.
  • DEDICATE RESOURCES TO THE PLAN. In 1999, when City Council first approved its Climate Change Protection Policy, the City set aside three staff members to work on it. "You need a little army," says Mr. Day. "I have a staff of 55 people and, today, probably at least half of them work on these issues every day."
  • POLITICAL CHAMPIONS. Calgary City Council has been instrumental in amending City policies to reflect sustainable development issues. "Without Mayor Dave Broconnier, we wouldn't have gotten the energy services agreement approved at Council. He also pushed us to get the Target -50 plan finished in time for the Big City Mayors Caucus in 2005," says Mr. Day.

Partners and Collaboration

  • Internal
  • Environmental Management, lead business unit. Approximately half of the City's 30 business units are also involved in carrying out the climate change plan.
  • External
  • ENMAX Energy Corporation
  • ATCO Energy
  • Climate Change Central
  • Vision Quest
  • FCM's Green Municipal Fund
  • Built GreenTM Alberta
  • University of Calgary
  • ICLEI — Local Governments for Sustainability
  • Government of Alberta
  • Transport Canada
  • Natural Resources Canada
Page Updated: 21/12/2015