Nova Scotia

Antigonish's green dreams include net-zero carbon emissions

The Town of Antigonish, N.S., is looking to become the first net-zero emissions community in Canada. About 63 per cent of the town's energy comes from green sources, which includes power from its own wind farm.

Town officials aim to have 100% reliance on renewable energy

The Town of Antigonish, N.S., is racing to become the first net-zero emissions community in Canada, according to its mayor and council. (Robert Short/CBC)

The Town of Antigonish, N.S., is looking to become the first net-zero emissions community in Canada.

"We are very fortunate to have a community that is very progressive and pushes us along the way," said Mayor Laurie Boucher.

"We have our own electric utility [Antigonish Electric Utility] and we have the ability to make change happen and that's what happened here."

About 63 per cent of the town's energy comes from green sources, which includes power from its own wind farm.

Boucher cannot pinpoint an exact timeframe for reaching the 100 per cent renewable energy goal.

"I do believe that it will happen, but it will be long after I'm here," she said. "Our hope is that we get on a good path and the councils behind us will follow the same route."

St. Francis Xavier University is partnering in the energy projects as it looks to switch away from its outdated and inefficient heating source. (CBC)

The town is in the early stages of drafting plans to expand its renewable energy sources.

The proposal seeks to consolidate six substations into one, and create an electric district heating system. This centralized system would produce heat that would be then fed to other users.

Substation consolidation would allow Antigonish to take on heavy-user customers such as St. Francis Xavier University.

The university is a partner and is slated to become the town's anchor client. 

St. FX vice-president of finance Andrew Beckett said the pairing would allow the university to move away from an outdated and inefficient heating system. 

The university's heating plant is located at the centre of campus.

"Its location is a challenge and it's a plant that operates off bunker C oil, which is hard to get and not environmentally friendly," Beckett said.

Mitigating climate change

There are other towns on track to receive net-zero status.

Boucher said Antigonish town council is going a step further by partnering with emissions producers in reducing their carbon footprint.

"This is will also make our community more energy independent and more reliable for all of our users," she said.

"We're looking at ways to mitigate climate change and this is one of them."

Boucher said that in order to do this, the town needs new infrastructure. She said the projects hinge on approval and support from the province and Ottawa.

In mid-May, Antigonish will begin installing 16 electric vehicle chargers after the project was delayed by the pandemic.

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