Mandates needed for district energy

“Denmark for example mandated that every community had to come up with a heating plan.”

– Johann Buijk

District energy strategies are bringing great benefit to communities in Europe, reducing reliance on fossil fuels. In Manitoba the idea is a tougher sell.

Standing in the way of our progress in this system is the fact that we have extremely cheap electricity according to Johann Buijk. The vice-president and general manager for DDACE Power Systems spoke to the Biofibe 08 conference in Winnipeg on Nov. 13 at the Fairmont.

He said it is important to remember that all energy ends up as heat. When district energy systems are set in place, there is little or no waste of heat generated. Buijk recommended the district energy models even over individual models that allow people to live apart from the grid.

These systems can also greatly reduce a communitys carbon footprint.

Buijk said Copenhagen has 98 per cent of the heating generated through the community system, so using the system in an urban setting is a possibility.

And while he pointed to different places in Canada trying this type of community-based power, including a fledgling project in Manitoba, he doesnt believe the province has the corrective incentives in place.

“It usually requires some kind of crisis to set the wheels in motion,” he said.

For Europeans, cost of importing fossil fuel forced governments to realize there had to be a better way.

“Denmark for example mandated that every community had to come up with a heating plan,” he said. And they were to ensure it was more efficient.

In Manitoba, power is so cheap, the population would be more likely to switch to electrical heat before moving to something more radical.

Even Bonnie Bain, senior relationship manager from Farm Credit Canada said they have not entertained these kinds of business proposals in Manitoba.

“Farm Credit Canada has done a number of biomass projects, but not in Manitoba,” said Bain.

And while Buijk highly recommended new developments use this state-of-the-art efficient technology, he admitted retrofitting is costly and hard to do.

But the people of St. Laurent need not despair. Buijk firmly believes these systems will benefit communities embracing them.

“A central system allows you to more efficiently utilize the local resources. Utilize the great heat from industry, combine it in power… even in Manitoba!”

He said Manitoba may be enjoying cheap power now, but requirements for power will eventually push governments to assess more sustainable energy sources. He said Manitoba must continually source new power to feed the needs of the province as well as the customers outside the province and country.

“As you require more power, will it make sense to have local power?” asked Buijk. He thinks that answer is yes.

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