Population boom doesn’t stop Ajax from reducing GHGs
This is part of a series of seven case studies that highlight members of the FCM-ICLEI Partners for Climate Protection program that have reached Milestone 5.
|Population||PCP member since||GHG reduction target|
|119,677 (2016 Census)||2010||Corporate: 20% below 2005 levels by 2020
Community: 6% below 2005 levels
Targets met: 23% corporate decrease, excluding growth; 15% community decrease, including growth. Updated targets are being discussed with the Regional Municipality of Durham and regional utilities, as Ajax prepares a new community energy plan.
"The Town of Ajax is a proud municipal leader in sustainability. As one of the fastest-growing municipalities in the Greater Toronto Area, the town remains committed to our environment-first philosophy by acknowledging that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a local responsibility with global impacts. Ajax is dedicated to joining members of the community to combat climate change through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Looking to the future, Ajax Council envisions smart, transit-supportive and resilient growth throughout our community to adapt to our changing climate and enhance quality of life for current and future residents."
Ajax, ON, is a rapidly growing community. Between 2005 and 2015, the town's population grew by more than one-third. As part of the Greater Toronto Area, its close proximity to Toronto makes it an attractive and affordable place to live — and its population is estimated to be 140,000 by 2031.
But despite this rapid growth, Ajax's per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have dropped compared to the baseline year (2005) and one of the key reasons is the town's Integrated Community Sustainability Plan, adopted in 2013. The plan gives Ajax the flexibility to amend its action item timelines as new priorities arise or new resources and information become available.
Ajax — A Journey to Sustainability was crafted with the input of more than 2,000 people from all sectors of the community. Jade Schofield, the town's environmental sustainability coordinator, notes that many of the town's busy young families work outside of Ajax and engaging them can be a challenge. "We engaged the public using a number of different platforms," says Schofield. The town used social media, hosted family-based competitions, had representatives visit local commuter transit hubs and created a community sustainability team to help lead the development of the plan.
Environmental leadership comes naturally to Ajax. In the 1950s, the council advocated for the protection of the southern border of Lake Ontario, and it was one of the first Ontario municipalities to include climate change policies within its official plan. "That set the tone and, as a result, environmental protection has been embedded in our municipal work and throughout the community," says Schofield. "We have a very supportive council and they embed a lot of trust in the staff to initiate the plan, which is fantastic."
Key projects and results
Building retrofits do the heavy lifting
Buildings and facilities, such as offices, town halls and community centres, are often the highest source of municipal energy use and emissions. Making buildings, and their systems and equipment, more efficient is one of the top actions that municipalities can take to reduce emissions and costs.
Ajax has taken a number of steps to improve the performance of its buildings. Its publication, Green Municipal Buildings of Ajax, showcases its greenest buildings. The town requires Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for all new municipal buildings. Much of this work has been showcased through community networks, such as Durham Region's Partners in Project Green, an organization that also helps local businesses adopt more sustainable practices.
The town has also retrofitted many of its facilities, including the Ajax Community Centre, its largest recreational facility. The centre has four ice pads, a swimming pool, a fitness centre, daycare, a community room, banquet halls, and is also the town's primary emergency centre. Most of the major upgrades — including chiller and boiler replacements and lighting retrofits — were done between 2008 and 2015.
- Between 2005 and 2015, the Ajax Community Centre reduced GHG emissions by more than 50 per cent. The town anticipates additional energy and emissions savings once it replaces the roof in 2018
- Retrofits at other municipal facilities have reduced overall corporate emissions by 15 per cent
- The town expects savings of more than $170,000 per year from reduced energy use, if all energy improvements identified in this initiative are made. The average annual expenditure for electricity and gas use for the Ajax Community Centre, based on 2016 energy prices, is approximately $2.4 million
- Interior lighting retrofits improve visibility for users, particularly on the ice pads, creating a more vibrant experience for players and fans. LED lights turn on and off instantly with no warm-up times
- HVAC upgrades help to regulate temperatures in rooms to decrease long warm-up or cool down times
Lighting up the town: New LED lights mean more savings
In 2013, Ajax took an inventory of all its town-owned lights. Street lighting was the largest source of energy consumption and emissions for the town's street and outdoor lighting sector, making up almost 95 per cent of total outdoor lighting. The GHG emissions associated with this service amount to 14 per cent of the town's total corporate GHG emissions. The street light program is scheduled to be completed over a four-year period, with the largest conversion taking place in 2017. In 2017 alone, 1,370 town-owned sodium halide street lights were switched to LEDs.
Despite a more than 30 per cent population increase in 10 years, Ajax's per capita emissions continue to fall. (Credit: Town of Ajax)
- When the project is complete, GHG emissions will be reduced by 480 tonnes per year
- The town will save an estimated $83,000 in electricity costs in 2018 as a result of the conversions completed in 2017
- LED prices have decreased considerably in recent years; the town budgeted $1.26 million for the 2017 conversions, but final costs were only $570,000
- LED street lights provide more directed lighting and less glare, and instantly provide full brightness when switched on, unlike conventional street lights, which require time to warm up
With solar-powered Tesla batteries, it's sunny days ahead
In 2016, the town's local distribution company installed two Tesla Powerwall batteries and a solar-powered carport canopy (first image) at its corporate headquarters in Ajax, making it the first utility in Canada to use this new technology. Powerwall is a lithium-ion battery system designed to store electricity generated from rooftop solar panels. The carport is also equipped with several electric vehicle chargers. As part of a future phase of the project, a residential development in Pickering will be connected to the system.
The town's distribution company, Veridian Connections, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Veridian Corporation, which is jointly owned by four shareholders: the City of Pickering, the Town of Ajax, the Municipality of Clarington and the City of Belleville in Ontario. Opus One Solutions, a software engineering company, manages the system. (Credit: Town of Ajax)
- Between May and September, the system produced 7.43 MWh of solar-generated electricity
- GHG reductions are projected to be 4,208 tonnes by 2051
- Between May and September 2017, the town saved $446 using the new system to charge electric vehicles (a calculation based on 825 charging sessions on the DC fast charger)
- The system fits with Ajax's plan to encourage highly efficient and, eventually, net-zero homes. Efficient homes provide multiple social benefits for residents, including lower energy costs, a healthier home environment, and increased energy security
- Moving from mitigation to adaptation: Ajax experienced an ice storm in 2013, a drought in 2016 and floods in 2017, all of which caused property damage, disrupted transportation, and brought various economic challenges. "We used to focus on mitigation but now we really have to address these issues from an adaptation view while still maintaining sustainability," says Schofield. "We're developing an adaptation plan that will support our asset management plan to keep us on track."
- Population growth and demographic changes: Ajax's population is expected to increase to 140,000 by 2031, which will bring cultural and socio-economic changes. Providing services to an ever-increasing and diverse community will be an ongoing challenge
- Treat large, complex plans as living documents to ensure flexibility in the planned actions. "There's no right or wrong way to do a plan. There are strengths and weaknesses to everything, and big plans can provide support for smaller projects and plans," says Schofield
- GHG inventories are not complicated, and although obtaining the right data can sometimes be difficult, organizations like ICLEI, through the PCP program, are there to help
- Celebrate the co-benefits of GHG-reducing projects. As Schofield says, "if you can elevate the overall importance of a sustainability plan, you'll get more support."
Milestone 1 – 2013 (Corporate, Community)
Milestone 2 – 2013 (Corporate, Community)
Milestone 3 – 2013 (Corporate, Community)
Milestone 4 – 2014 (Corporate, Community)
Milestone 5 – 2016, 2017 (Corporate, Community)
Studying new ways to increase efficiency, with support from FCM's Green Municipal Fund
In partnership with the Regional Municipality of Durham, Ajax received support from FCM's Green Municipal Fund to study ways to optimize the city's water supply system operations, and to study energy and water use in new-built homes.
The following resources can help on your journey to achieving Milestone 5:
- Ajax — A Journey to Sustainability
- Green Municipal Buildings of Ajax
- Eco Business Network (formerly Durham Partners in Project Green)
- Energy Conservation and Demand Management Plan
- Town of Ajax Community Greenhouse Gas Inventory and Trends 2015
- Tesla Powerwall
- Video: The benefits of energy efficiency at the Ajax Community Centre