Planning for District Energy: Broad recommendations for Ontario Municipalities to help facilitate the development of community based energy solutions.
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District energy systems are a key component to addressing reductions in green house gases, encouraging compact settlement form and ensuring reliable community energy delivery. System development can also generate local economic benefits like aggregated energy pricing and employment creation. This research focuses on an exploration of Ontario’s planning framework with respect to energy generation and thermal energy distribution, providing broad recommendations to municipalities intended to help facilitate the development of district energy systems. In summary, this research was designed to accomplish the following objectives: 1. To craft a set of transferrable recommendations that will help Ontario municipalities facilitate the development of district energy systems where appropriate. 2. To add to the literature available on district energy system development from a municipal planning perspective. 3. To examine the tools available to planning practitioners to help engage communities and municipalities in planning for local energy generation and delivery. The methodological approach employed for this research is qualitative in nature, relying on an inductive style building from particulars to general themes. The characteristics of a qualitative study are best suited to address the research questions and objectives because community energy planning and land use planning are largely unexplored in conjunction, and this methodology provides a framework to explore where the fields have integrated in practice as well as reveal some of the challenges and potential solutions. Case studies were used to examine the development of two different Ontario district energy systems. Additionally, key informant interviews provide insights from planners, system operators, customers and industry experts to provide a practice based foundation of information to development transferable recommendations. The findings suggest that the development of a district energy system is a very complex process, requiring the expertise of many specialists, and the support from local stakeholders. There are planning implications for the implementation of district energy systems, which require forethought at the beginning of the planning process and opportunities to support community based energy solutions through policy. The adoption of a planning regulatory framework will ensure adequate consideration is given to community energy management in conjunction with land use and urban form. Going forward, accounting for the conservation of energy in land use will be imperative for achieving local, regional and provincial goals associated with infrastructure, the environment, and energy resource management.