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2016 FCM Sustainable Communities Awards — Energy Plan

WINNER: Region of Waterloo, ON

Living smarter in 2020: a plan for taking action on climate change

With three cities and a regional government pulling together to address climate change, the Region of Waterloo in southern Ontario has prioritized its clean technology and sustainable energy sectors.

Read the case study below to see highlights of the region's award-winning plan, and learn about the challenges and lessons learned that can help your community in a planning a similar initiative.

Region of Waterloo, ON, 2016 Sustainable Communities Award winner

About the project

Municipal population Project duration Total project value
569,000 2010–2020


Acting together, the Region of Waterloo and the three cities within its boundaries (Waterloo, Kitchener and Cambridge) have developed and begun implementing a local climate action plan that will reduce emissions, improve energy efficiency, and contribute to the prosperity of the entire region. Two local non-profit organizations worked closely with the four councils to develop the plan with shared targets and timelines. Local electric and gas utilities were also involved in developing the action plan and emissions reduction target. Stakeholders from 28 different organizations participated as well.

All four councils unanimously endorsed the plan and each administration committed to the same target: a 6 per cent reduction in GHG emissions from 2010 levels by 2020.

The action plan addresses energy use in homes and businesses, sustainable transportation, waste diversion and waste-to-energy generation, and touches on the role of sustainable water use and agricultural production. Implementation of a sample of 13 of its actions is expected to save businesses and residents more than $21 million, and generate nearly 5,400 person years of employment. Over time the plan is expected to stimulate growth in the clean technology and sustainable energy sectors within the region. 


"It's not surprising that the climate action plan has received such acceptance here. We have a history of working together, of trying to get everyone to work toward common goals, and I think that played a strong role."
Regional Chair Ken Seiling

Solar panels on building at Region of Waterloo Operations Centre in Cambridge, ON

3 people getting into Community CarShare electric vehicle, Region of Waterloo, ON

Project Highlights


Environmental Economic Social
  • 6 per cent reduction in GHG emissions from 2010 levels by 2020

  • Reduce energy use in homes and businesses

  • Increase transit use, cycling, walking, and car sharing and pooling

  • Improve solid waste diversion to minimize emissions from landfill

  • Add $350 million value to the local economy

  • Create more than 600 full-time local jobs lasting more than a decade

  • Save $21 million on household and business energy costs

  • Increase community involvement in climate actions
  • Improve public health and air quality
  • Save $10.5 million in health care costs related to air pollution
  • Increase street safety, interaction between people
  • Foster healthier homes and workplaces


  • Working with a large group of stakeholders takes time and commitment. The effort is worth it to achieve consensus and have the partner groups take ownership of the plan, but don't assume it will be easy.

  • Identifying measurable actions: people generate a lot of great ideas but many of them require extensive advance analysis to determine whether they are realistic and if they have a business case that stimulates the necessary financial support.

  • Collecting data and crunching numbers is demanding, but without it you can't plan concrete steps. You need the capacity to put numbers into action.

  • Ongoing measurement is only part of the task: you need to collate and capture the results and translate them into terms that the public and stakeholders can easily understand. Communicating the need for change, co-benefits of actions and the path to reach the reduction target is important to gain widespread support.

Lessons learned

  • Link environmental and economic benefits. It is critical for engaging people. By demonstrating cost savings, job opportunities and economic spinoffs, you can reach people with different priorities.

  • Coordinate the work of municipalities, utilities and non-profit organizations. It sends a powerful message that this is really what the community wants, and helps build support.

  • Develop a realistic community engagement strategy based on financial and staff capacity. Focus on high-quality interactions with a few key people.

  • Use accessible off-the-shelf tools such as Twitter and Facebook for online engagement.

  • Hire a full-time dedicated project manager to see the project through from start to finish.

  • The process will take more time than you expect. Add some extra contingency time to your schedule.

Partners and collaborators Project planning documents Related reading

City of Waterloo

City of Kitchener

City of Cambridge

REEP Green Solutions

Sustainable Waterloo Region

A Climate Action Plan for Waterloo Region: Living Smarter in 2020

Summer 2014 Progress Snapshot

Winter 2015 Progress Snapshot

Fall 2015 Progress Snapshot

GMF funding opportunities for planning initiatives

GMF energy resources

Partners for Climate Protection program

Case study - City of Surrey, BC, winner of the 2015 FCM Sustainable Communities Award (energy planning category)

More information

David Roewade
Sustainability Planner - Community Planning
Region of Waterloo, ON
T. 519-575-4757 ext. 3308

Jeca Glor-Bell
Advisor, Knowledge Services, FCM
T. 613-907-6393

Page Updated: 27/04/2018