Showing the way for other small Quebec municipalities
This is part of a series of seven case studies that highlight members of ICLEI Canada's and FCM's Partners for Climate Protection program that have reached Milestone 5.
Nicolet is the second Quebec municipality to reach Milestone 5 for both community and corporate PCP streams
|Population||PCP member since||GHG reduction target|
Corporate and community: 20% below 2009 levels by 2020
"Small actions count and Nicolet's municipal council has a mandate to make every individual aware of the need to reduce GHGs. Our elected officials believe in this, as well as our staff and citizens, so everyone is on board with a common objective. We truly feel that the public is ready to make the effort, and I would even say that people expect their municipal administration to increase initiatives to fight climate change. Together, we really are on the right track to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Nicolet."
Founded in 1672, the City of Nicolet, QC, is among the oldest municipalities in Canada. Situated within a territory the size of Longueil, but with less than 97 per cent of the population, Nicolet is surrounded on all sides by water, with the St. Lawrence bordering the north and the Nicolet River crossing the municipality to the south. On its western fringe is Lac St-Pierre, a designated UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, part of UNESCO's world network of biosphere reserves.
While many rural and semi-urban municipalities have struggled with aging populations and population decreases, the City of Nicolet has worked hard to increase its population by more than 500 residents (seven per cent) since 2010. Although growth can be challenging, Nicolet considers it a bonus. A larger population has meant a larger tax base and new housing starts, which have fueled construction permits and raised municipal revenues – money that Nicolet has used to fund its climate change adaptation and mitigation programs, while keeping tax increases equal to or less than the Consumer Price Index.
Over the last several years, the City of Nicolet has also encouraged tree planting, created new bike paths, and provided rebates, with its partners, for the installation of electric vehicle charging stations and the purchase of cloth diapers.
The City of Nicolet has definitely had its share of firsts. It was one of the first municipalities in Quebec to ban the use of pesticides in 2003. In 2005, it became one of the first to preserve its natural urban forest by creating the 10-hectare Boisé-du-Séminaire. It was also among the first municipalities in Quebec to join the Province of Quebec's climate change program, Québec in Action: Greener by 2020.
"We translate the difficult into the doable," says Pierre Genest, the City of Nicolet's General Manager.
Key projects and results
A new town hall gives residents one-stop service
Nicolet's town hall, despite its relatively recent construction in 1995, was one of the municipality's largest energy users. With more than 20 municipal buildings, and services spread throughout the large municipality, Nicolet knew it could find a way to deliver services to residents more efficiently.
The municipal government decided to integrate multiple municipal services under one roof by dramatically increasing the size of a single building. The newly retrofitted municipal building now includes the town hall, library, community services, and other services. Residents no longer have to drive long distances simply to borrow a book, attend a meeting, pay a fine, rent an electric vehicle, or register for recreational programs.
- Despite increasing the square footage of the new municipal building by 81 per cent, the city reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 22 tonnes with new high-efficiency HVAC systems, increased wall and ceiling insulation, and other upgrades.
- Building on this success, in the spring of 2018, the City of Nicolet began retrofitting its local sports arena. When complete, the $2.8 million project should lead to a reduction of energy costs by half in total, there is a reduction of 600,000 kWh eq., compared to other arenas where ventilation was brought up to standards – and reduce GHG emissions by more than 21 tonnes.
- Consolidating multiple services within a newly renovated municipal building has reduced annual electricity use by nine per cent.
- Renovations to the refrigeration system of the sports arena will reduce energy costs by almost 45 per cent.
- The City of Nicolet is currently replacing all its streetlights with LEDs, which is projected to result in an estimated $34,000 in savings annually.
- The city has kept tax increases to a minimum, and pegged at no more than the Consumer Price Index.
- Residents can now access many services by visiting a single location, which has increased access and reduced the need for residents to drive long distances.
The future is with SAUVéR
In 2017, the City of Nicolet joined the SAUVéR pilot project (Système d'autopartage avec véhicule électrique en région). It is now one of six municipalities championing the vehicle sharing program and the use of electric vehicles. The neighbouring municipalities of Bromont, Rivière-du-Loup, Plessisville, Temiscouata-sur-le-Lac, and Sainte Julienne are partners in the network.
Since joining the network, the City of Nicolet has purchased two electric vehicles that it loans out to organizations and town employees. It has plans to begin loaning the SAUVéR electrical vehicles in its fleet to residents, including seniors and low-income households. As the project advances, the city will establish an online registration and booking system. The city also plans to install more charging stations and will provide training on best practices in driving and maintaining electric vehicles.
- Electric vehicles in Quebec are mainly powered by renewable energy (hydroelectric), eliminating the vehicle emissions associated with gasoline-fueled cars.
- On average, an electric vehicle costs about one-eighth as much as a gasoline-powered vehicle to operate.
- Residents will soon be able to borrow an electric vehicle, saving them vehicle purchase and maintenance costs. Giving residents an opportunity to test drive an electric vehicle may also spur them to purchase their own.
- By partnering with other municipalities, the City of Nicolet will be able to offer a number of charging locations.
- With the vehicle loan program, those residents who cannot afford a vehicle, are older, chose not to own a vehicle or only own one for environmental reasons, or do not use a vehicle daily will still be able to be independent and mobile.
Tax credits help residents to move on timely renovations
Since 2013, the City of Nicolet has provided tax credits of up to $11,600 over three to five years to residents who want to construct new LEED-certified homes. Nicolet has one of the most generous tax credit programs in the province of Quebec.
In 2018, the City of Nicolet wants to offer residents long-term loans for energy-efficient retrofits through FIME (Financement innovateur pour les municipalités efficaces). The low-interest loans will be repaid via municipal taxes over a 20-year period. To make the program even more attractive, the loans are linked directly to the property, not the homeowner, so if a resident sells, the new owner is responsible for repayment of the loan.
- On average, LEED-certified homes can reduce GHG emissions by 25-30 per cent.
- On average, energy-efficient homes use 25 per cent less energy and 11 per cent less water.
- The loan interest rate is based on municipal market rates, which are below rates for private citizens.
- Annual energy cost savings are between $1,200 and $1,500 annually, more than the annual costs of the loan repayment.
- Energy-efficiency work has meant more jobs for local contractors.
- Certified green homes have better indoor air quality.
- The loan program gives residents who may not have been able to afford a renovation the opportunity to reduce their personal carbon footprint.
- Climate change impacts: In the spring of 2017, the City of Nicolet declared a state of emergency when the St. Lawrence River overflowed and caused severe flooding. Although floods are predictable given its location on a floodplain, Nicolet is now preparing for major changes to its aging infrastructure, including its storm sewer network.
- Awareness and communication: Despite an already high level of awareness among Nicolet's residents of the impacts of climate change, Genest says it will be an ongoing challenge to ensure that residents are well-informed in a timely manner, using clear and simple language.
- Embrace innovation. "Thinking creatively is a way of life," says Genest, adding that reflection leads to greater innovation that will kick-start new projects ever year. "Whenever we undertake any type of project, we ask ourselves if there is a better way," concludes Genest.
- Determine the impact on GHG emissions of proposed projects before you undertake them. "We set our priorities and determine how we will pay to implement the work," Genest explains, adding that some project costs are minimal, but have huge returns, which provide a source of funding for other measures.
Milestone 1 – 2016 (Corporate, Community)
Milestone 2 – 2016 (Corporate, Community)
Milestone 3 – 2016 (Corporate, Community)
Milestone 4 – 2016 (Corporate, Community)
Milestone 5 – 2016 (Corporate, Community)
Green Municipal Fund: The City of Nicolet was among six municipalities to receive GMF funding for the SAUVéR pilot project.
The following resources can help on your journey to achieving Milestone 5:
Partners and collaborators
Chief Administrative Officer
Ville de Nicolet, QC
T. 819-293-6901, ext. 1101
Sustainable Development Officer Community Services
Ville de Nicolet, QC
T. 819-293-6901, ext. 1702