The Incredible Sustainable Energy Option No One in Edmonton is Talking About

The Incredible Sustainable Energy Option No One in Edmonton is Talking About

In short: 

-Hydro energy recovery is a fantastic renewable energy option we could introduce to our city

-It produces zero emissions, can be installed in existing infrastructure without disturbing the environment, and can offset the funding for wastewater treatment plants

-The city has little motivation to install it, so it’s up to residents and the councillors they elect to push for changes to make Edmonton a greener city 

After experiencing record-setting temperatures this summer, I’ve heard more and more constituents mentioning how important it is that I and other candidates include a comprehensive plan to address climate change. And since Alberta produces 87% of its energy from coal and gas, one of the most obvious places to start is introducing renewable resources into our provincial energy portfolio. 

When it comes to renewables, Edmonton has focused on solar power, specifically with the creation of a solar farm in the River Valley. While geothermal and wind energy have been mentioned, there have been no meaningful suggestions on how to include them within our grid, possibly because they disturb the surrounding environment, or the projects are too large-scale to currently undertake. That’s why I wanted to bring up a brilliant source of renewable energy that creates zero emissions, can be easily installed in our existing infrastructure, and that no one in Edmonton is talking about. 

The concept of hydro energy was brought to my attention by Isa Storti, one of my campaign volunteers, and after learning more about the technology, I’ve fallen in love with the idea. 

Hydro energy is an integral part of many Canadian cities’ power systems. The province of Manitoba produces a whopping 97% of its energy from hydroelectricity. And while there’s a conversation to be had around utilizing our surrounding rivers, it’s the implementation of hydro energy recovery in our local wastewater treatment plants that is most exciting to me. 

The concept is very simple. Municipal wastewater treatment plants process millions of liters of water every day (Edmonton’s Goldbar treatment plant sits at 265 million per day). With the simple installation of turbines throughout the plant’s piping systems, massive quantities of energy can be harvested from both the water’s flow and the pressure it creates throughout the process. 

What excites me about the idea is that the turbines produce zero emissions, and even better, they don’t disturb the natural environment — an unfortunate drawback of solar panels and wind turbines. We also aren’t tearing down any existing infrastructure or starting projects from scratch, as we only need to make slight additions to our existing plants.  

And the output can be incredible. Metro Vancouver’s Seymour-Capilano Filtration Project, one of the largest water transfer-and-treatment energy recovery projects in North America, generates enough electricity to power up to 1,000 homes, reducing Metro Vancouver’s total energy consumption by approximately 9,600 MWh/year. Better yet, this surplus energy producing can offset the costs of running the water treatment plant, which are often quite expensive to run.

However, while you might think our municipal government would jump at the idea, they have little current motivation to do so. 

Epcor, the City of Edmonton’s primary power provider, is owned in large part by the city itself. The City of Edmonton increased its investment in EPCOR from $3,841.9 million in 2019 to $3,975 million in 2020, an increase of $133.1 million. That same year, Epcor paid the City of Edmonton $171 million in dividend, meaning the City came away almost $40 million dollars ahead. So, despite inefficiencies in the system, or opportunities for improvement, the City has no motivation to introduce more sustainable energy because they can continue to make money off of EPCOR regardless of wasted energy potential.

For those who have been paying attention to environmental change for some time, we know that businesses will not change solely for the sake of the climate. It falls to the people to demand that alternatives be implemented, whether it’s changing what we buy, or introducing legislation to ensure that environmentally beneficial practices are followed by businesses. 

To that end, I’d like to ask for your help in helping Edmonton change for the better. Together we can fight for better systems that make the lives of Edmontonians better. If you believe in environmental projects such as these, please join my campaign. Volunteer, take a lawn sign, donate, or spark a conversation with a friend in the ward about our campaign. 

Because I believe our recovery programs should be implemented while there’s still something to recover.