Canadians are used to living in a traditional economy where resources are made, used, and disposed of — but times are changing. Environmental concerns have led to a growing demand for an economy where resources are made, used, recovered, and regenerated in every sector, including energy.

At least one innovative Canadian energy utility company has stepped up to meet that demand. Creative Energy, a Vancouver-based company, builds on existing infrastructure to create neighbourhood energy systems that meet various objectives — including increased energy efficiency, reduced carbon footprint, and more affordable prices.

For example, the company’s steam plant provides St. Paul’s Hospital, located in downtown Vancouver, with steam for heating, hot water, and sterilization.

In addition to the high-efficiency gas boilers, such as those used in the steam plant, Creative Energy provides other services, including waste-heat recovery from sewage, combustion of urban wood waste, which replaces conventional fuels such as coal and natural gas, and ocean-loop geoexchange to transfer heat from seawater to provide heating and cooling.

Mirvish Village energy use will reflect values of local customers

With an eye to the future, Creative Energy is pursuing initiatives to modernize and expand its existing system in Vancouver. It’s developing hot-water networks, cooling networks, and new low-carbon energy sources to displace conventional energy supplies for current and future customers.

Based on the West Coast, the company is expanding its horizons eastward. It’s currently involved in a high-profile development in Toronto — the Mirvish Village project. When completed, the community will include rental units, a local market, shops, galleries, and a public park. This development replaces Honest Ed’s, a discount store founded by legendary retailer Ed Mirvish in 1948, and the surrounding area.

Creative Energy will implement a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) system to provide the community with heating, cooling, electricity, and back-up power using a micro-grid. This technology will reduce the development’s reliance on the Toronto hydro grid for electricity. The technology will also provide a source of waste energy to generate heating for the development.

“Energy sources built to serve Mirvish Village will reflect the values of customers,” says Kieran McConnell, Director of Engineering and Innovation for Creative Energy. “We know they will insist that energy sources match the values embedded in the concept of a circular economy.”

Energy sector must adapt to climate change

As more Canadians see the merit of a circular economy, their shift in values will be more pronounced, and they will no longer be willing to sit on the sidelines as decisions are made for them, says McConnell. They will become even more engaged in the selection of energy sources for their neighbourhoods and will insist on a low-carbon future.

“In the future, customers will choose energy sources that are most appropriate for their communities — and companies like ours will work with them, neighbourhood by neighbourhood, to build energy sources that match their values,” adds Creative Energy’s President and CEO, Robert Hobbs.

This shift in attitude is critical because urban centres around the world are increasing in density and straining the existing energy infrastructure. Furthermore,  McConnell says that climate change is triggering more severe global weather patterns, and the energy sector must adapt by implimenting resilient infrastructure that will be able to provide essential services in the coming decades.

The future looks bright for innovative energy developers. “I think the energy industry in North America is ready to move away from traditional energy sources toward low-carbon energy sources — even though traditional utilities will resist that change,” says McConnell. “We see ourselves as leaders in this area. Creative Energy is ready to work with municipalities and developers to build lasting energy infrastructure and, ultimately, to create sustainable cities.”