Christie Day, Local Journalism Initiative reporter
The City of Markham is taking another key step toward its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, thanks to a $270-million investment to expand clean-energy projects in the city over the next 10 years.
The financing, which closed in late November, comes equally from the Canadian Infrastructure Bank and CIBC. It will be used to help realize the clean-energy infrastructure plans of Markham District Energy (MDE), a thermal-energy utility owned by the city.
“Our $135-million investment will support Markham District Energy in expanding its operations, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating spin-off economic benefits,” explained Ehren Cory, CEO of Canada Infrastructure Bank. To date, CIB has invested about $1 billion in district energy projects across Canada.
MDE provides low-carbon services to heat and cool buildings through a network of underground thermal pipes that deliver heated and chilled water from a central facility. The thermal energy is used for space heating, domestic hot water heating and air conditioning. Buildings connected to the thermal grid do not need their own boiler or furnaces, chillers or air conditioners.
Currently, 230 buildings are linked to the MDE system, representing 13 million square feet of space. With the new funding, MDE will expand its service area and provide low-carbon systems to more buildings, including residential complexes, commercial businesses and institutions.
The new infrastructure is expected to reduce 33,700 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually. Every building connected to the system becomes “net-zero ready” as MDE continues to improve its carbon performance.
Buildings are one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in urban centres. District energy systems are becoming popular as communities look for long-term ways to use cleaner technologies and meet ambitious climate-change targets. Markham District Energy started operating in 2000 and is now the fastest-growing district energy utility in Canada.
“We are very pleased CIBC responded to a call for a funding partner,” MDE president and CEO Bruce Ander noted. “This sets the stage for us to deliver efficient, reliable, low-carbon district energy to all new customers in our growing urban centres.”
The partnership will support both the City of Markham’s climate-change targets and CIBC’s aim to achieve net-zero operational and financing activities by 2050, as well as align with CIB’s mandate.
Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti hailed the investors’ participation. “This is a great example of the municipal sector working with public- and private-sector partners to deliver environmental and economic benefits to Canadians.”
Photo: Funding partners gathered to announce support for improvements to Markham District Energy’s infrastructure. (L-R): Lisa Raitt, vice-chair of Global Investment Banking, CIBC; Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti; Bruce Ander, president and CEO, Markham District Energy; and Ehren Cory, CEO, Canada Infrastructure Bank. (Photo supplied)