Ottawa

City misses fuel targets, aims at GHG emissions instead

Having failed to meet its own environmental goal of reducing fuel consumption by municipal vehicles in 2016, the City of Ottawa will begin tracking the fleet's environmental impact by a different measure, a city committee decided Wednesday.

Fuel consumption by city vehicles rose nearly 12% since 2012, while greenhouse gas emissions dropped

The City of Ottawa's fleet vehicles have consumed more fuel since 2012, despite efforts to reduce fuel consumption. (Ashley Burke/CBC News)

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  • Council unanimously approved this item on Oct. 11, 2017.

Having failed to meet its own environmental goal of reducing fuel consumption by municipal vehicles in 2016, the City of Ottawa will begin tracking the fleet's environmental impact by a different measure, a city committee decided Wednesday.

The city was aiming to reduce fuel consumption by city vehicles by four per cent by 2016, using 2012 consumption rates as a benchmark. Instead, there was an 11.8 per cent increase.

In my mind we're going in the wrong direction.- Coun. Mathieu Fleury

"In my mind we're going in the wrong direction," Coun. Mathieu Fleury told his colleagues on the city's transportation committee.

But Luke Senecal, the city's manager of fleet life cycle and safety, said the numbers aren't as damning as they may appear.

The first problem with the target, he said, is that 2012 was not a suitable benchmark. That year the city renegotiated its garbage collection contract and added 25 fuel-guzzling garbage trucks to its fleet.

Comparing 2016 rates to 2013 instead, consumption rose by just two per cent, Senecal said..  

Targets set to change

Senecal said fuel consumption is also a poor measure of environmental impact.

The city is now looking into purchasing biofuel for some of its vehicles. The green benefits of that fuel wouldn't be reflected if the city only measures fuel consumption, Senecal pointed out.

 He suggested the city measure greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions instead.

Luke Senecal, Ottawa's manager of fleet life cycle and safety, urged councillors to measure greenhouse gas emissions instead of fuel consumption. (Laura Osman/ CBC )

Transportation committee unanimously supported changing the target to a one per cent reduction of GHG emissions per year by 2018, using 2013 as a benchmark. The change still needs to be approved by city council.

"We're just moving our measure to be something … that is fully recognized as the international standard of the way to measure the true impact on the environment," Senecal said.

Since 2012, the city has reduced the GHG emissions by its vehicles by 6.3 per cent, Senecal said.

Green policy not always followed

The city's fleet includes cars used by bylaw officers, garbage trucks, ambulances, fire trucks, ice resurfacers and many other kinds of vehicles.

Though city staff have made strides toward improving the environmental impact of its fleet, including the purchase of 11 new hybrid vehicles in 2017, they haven't always made the greenest choices.

In 2017 the city purchased nine new Zamboni ice resurfacers. Though the city had the option to buy electric models, it chose ones that use propane and natural gas instead.

A city report said the decision was based on issues with the electric ice resurfacers it bought in 2011, including the cost of the charging stations and limited operating times between charges.

Fleury criticized the decision. He said recreation centres are now stuck with these fuel-consuming machines for the next 15 years before they can be replaced.

He said the city needs to be more aggressive in embracing new green vehicle technologies to meet its environmental targets.

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