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Could the city of Guelph run solely on renewable energy?

A talk hosted by Emerge Guelph will focus on whether the Royal City should become a 100-per-cent renewable energy city and what that might look like.

Residents invited to event to discuss what reaching that goal could look like

Oxford county, Vancouver and Victoria, B.C., have all signed on to transition to 100 per cent renewable power. A talk later this month in Guelph will asks residents what they think of the idea. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

A city run entirely on renewable energy.

It might seem like a pipe dream, but it's a goal some communities around the globe are setting.

Residents in Guelph are being asked to start a conversation on the topic by Emerge Guelph, an organization that offers advice to residents on how to save money on energy and how they can help the environment.

"We know that, in theory, it's possible. It is absolutely possible to be a 100 percent renewable energy city," said University of Guelph assistant professor and energy expert Kirby Calvert, who will be part of an event later this month.

"The question is what we're willing to do to achieve that."

It could mean solar panels. It could mean wind turbines. It could mean harnessing geothermal energy. 

Or it could mean buying energy from another entity that produces the renewable energy.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has said hydro rates are too high in the province. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

'The right path' for Oxford county

It is a movement that has taken off with 12 countries, 67 cities, and 62 regions and states signing up for the challenge under the website Go100percent.org.

In Canada, just three other communities have made a pledge to rely on renewable energy.

Vancouver, which relies a lot on hydropower or power generated by water, made the decision to transition into a 100 per cent renewable energy city, but gave no timeline.

Victoria, B.C., also made the pledge, but said it would do it by 2050.

Closer to Waterloo region, Oxford county committed in 2015 to becoming a 100 per cent renewable energy communityby 2050.

The motion was put forward by Woodstock Mayor Trevor Birtch.

"We are already pursuing renewable energy investment in our communities through the Smart Energy Oxford Group," Birtch said at the time.

"We believe the commitment to 100 per cent renewable energy is not only the right path to take for our future and our children's future, it's also the right approach for our local economy and our ability to continue to attract this type of investment."
Could Guelph becoming a 100 per cent renewable energy city mean there would be solar panels everywhere? (The Associated Press)

How to reach goal

The conversation planned for later this month in Guelph comes at a time when many in Ontario are feeling the financial pinch of hydro bills.

Premier Kathleen Wynne has acknowledged the cost of power in the province is too high.

"I take responsibility as leader for not paying close enough attention to some of the daily stresses in Ontarians' lives," Wynne told the Ontario Liberal Party's annual general meeting in November. "Electricity prices are the prime example."

Calvert will be giving a brief outline about the concept of a city relying 100 per cent renewable energy and what that might look like before residents break out into groups to discuss the concept.

He said there's rarely an argument about whether a city should look to renewable resources.

Instead, the conflict arises when the question is raised: How a city goes about it?

"Very few people are rolling their eyes, very few people are automatically reacting emotionally and saying, 'That's not possible. Why are we even entertaining that thought?'" he said.

"Most people, even those that you might think to be opposed to the idea, are at least willing to entertain the idea and have the conversation."

The discussion will take place March 24 at Innovation Guelph at 111 Farquhar Street. The event was initially going to be at Emerge Guelph in Old Quebec Street Mall, but Evan Ferrari of Emerge Guelph says there has been significant interest in the talk. It is free, but people are asked to register.

Calvert said they want to hear from all sides of the topic.

"We're not imagining this as being a cheerleading rally. We're hoping that it is a meaningful, balanced conversation," he said.

Listen to an interview with Kirby Calvert on The Morning Edition with host Craig Norris.

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