City of Regina releases citywide plan to be nearly net-zero by 2050

"Regina can achieve its targets, this is a realistic plan, all the technology is there," said Brittany MacLean, senior consultant with Sustainability Solutions Group and lead analyst on the Energy and Sustainability Framework project.

Plan reflects commitment set by city council in 2018

City council will consider the plan during a special executive committee council meeting on March 24. (Alexander Quon/CBC News)

The City of Regina released a plan on Monday that projects it will nearly reach net-zero emissions by 2050, a commitment unanimously set by council in 2018

"Regina can achieve its targets, this is a realistic plan, all the technology is there," said Brittany MacLean, senior consultant with Sustainability Solutions Group and lead analyst on the Energy and Sustainability Framework project.

The plan was developed with Sustainability Solutions Group, which has completed more than 80 climate change plans in partnership with whatIf? Technologies. This plan would encompass the entire city in transitioning to renewable energy.

The framework lays out seven significant actions the city will have to take if they want to near the goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and 31 other similar actions. They're based off of an analysis of the city's carbon emissions, which found the main sources were split into three categories: industry, transportation and buildings.

To manage them, they say the city needs to commit to:

  • Retrofitting existing buildings.
  • Clean heating.
  • Net-zero in new construction.
  • Renewable energy generation.
  • Low-emission vehicles.
  • Increase active transportation and transit use.
  • Clean and re-energize industry.

That including replacing windows and doors, moving to more efficient heating systems, introducing commercial and residential solar and wind energy, electrifying city buses starting in 2024 with all buses switched by 2039 and 100 per cent emission-free vehicle sales by 2030 ahead of the federal government's goal.

Being net-zero, the city explained in a news release, means that either "all electrification, heating and cooling, as well as transportation are powered from renewable energy" or are offset by reduced greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere.

The proposed plan, to be considered at a special city council meeting on March 24, is expected to reduce the city's emissions by 52 per cent and cut energy by 24 per cent. The framework development began in fall 2020 and was based on the city's emissions in 2016, which were over five million tonnes.

Maclean said the framework means the city will "almost" reach net zero by 2050.

There's about a two per cent gap from net zero in Regina's plan, which sometimes happens, she said.

"A lot of it has to do with the transportation system," MacLean said.

"We see vehicles being transitioned over to being zero emissions, but because of their life cycle we're still seeing some of those emissions in the system in 2050.

"I wouldn't say it's a significant issue because ... the city has the ability to reassess and to use adaptive management as they learn and as conditions change but it needs to disappear at some point to reach the target."

Brittany MacLean, a lead analyst with the city's sustainability plan, said that the city's plan will contribute to providing about 4,000 full-time jobs existing in the community. (City of Regina/Microsoft Teams)

She said to get rid of those emissions before 2050, gas and diesel vehicles would need to be retired. The waste system is also something that won't be net zero by 2050, but solutions could arise in the next nearly 30 years.

The city said the framework will bring the community in stride with the global climate mitigation targets. 

Canada and other countries a part of the G20 intergovernmental forum agreed in October 2021 to keep global warming below 1.5 C of what the temperature was before industrialization. At the time, it was recorded at 1.1 C.

"This is not just an energy and emissions plan," MacLean said, "it's also supportive of the local economy."

So far, the city said it has put $6 million toward advancing "municipal actions on the 'low-carbon pathway'" but the entire framework projects a city-wide investment of $12.5 billion by 2050.

That investment, MacLean said, will have to come from beyond the city, including from city residents and provincial and federal funding.

Representatives from the city expects it will receive funding from Ottawa and appeared optimistic about receiving funding from Saskatchewan.

Cara Simpson, manager of cross functional solutions with the City of Regina, said the city would consider retrofit rebates to incentivize residents.

City of Regina representatives Cara Simpson, left, Greg Kuntz, centre and Louise Folk, right, discuss the city's plan to be net zero by 2050. (City of Regina/Microsoft Teams)

Greg Kuntz, City of Regina manager of energy and sustainability solutions, said the "last place" the city wants to go is using bylaws and regulations to enforce net-zero actions, but would rather educate residents and industry and provide incentives. Kuntz said bylaws and regulations could come later as the actions become the norm.

If the city implements the framework, it's expected to generate more than 123,000 person-years of employment between now and 2050, a release said, which is equal to about 4,000 full-time jobs per year that wouldn't have been available before. Those will replace any jobs lost, according to MacLean.

"All of those jobs would be related to the actions that are part of those seven big moves," she said.

"You will see things like building retrofits, you will see expansion of transit, you will see addition of solar PV and those all translate into new net jobs."

A virtual information session will be held on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. for residents to learn more and ask questions about the plan.