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2005 Energy — Co-winner 3

Regional Municipality of York, Ontario

Energy and Environmental Management System (EEMS)

Population: 897,607

After reviewing off-the-shelf products, the Regional Municipality of York (York Region) decided to create its own unique in-house software tool to measure the energy and environmental performance of its municipal operations. The Energy and Environmental Management System (EEMS) captures information on all facilities, street and traffic lights, water and wastewater treatment, power generation and transportation. Users can automatically upload electronic files containing energy data to the Web-based system, where the information is passed through data and bill verification checks. Estimates show that York Region will save about $70,000 a year in efficiencies. Also, through licensing agreements with other municipalities, York Region will recover the cost of the software's development.

Background

The Regional Municipality of York joined Partners for Climate Protection (PCP), jointly supported by FCM and ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, in 2001. As part of the PCP commitment, municipalities follow a five-milestone framework and must first compile greenhouse gas emission and energy use inventories in order to establish a baseline from which they can create an action plan. However, one of the main challenges in developing these inventories is being able to access credible and reliable energy and emissions data.

York Region consulted ICLEI to help it compile the inventories. "The software that ICLEI had been using didn't offer all the functionality that was needed, and they were honest about the gaps that were missing," says Tracey Forrest, York Region's program manager, energy management.

Rather than settle for second-best, York Region began looking for existing software tools that could help it compile and analyze its energy use and emission information. "We met with the staff of our own departments and with other municipalities and industry professionals and developed a list of criteria, then tried to find something that fit our requirements," Ms. Forrest explains. Although many software tools existed, none met York Region's specific needs. "Most of the ones we looked at were too expensive and either had features that weren't meaningful to municipal governments or were too limited in their scope," she says.

Results

  • The EEMS has helped York Region improve its budgeting process. "It's important to get our utility budgets as correct as possible. The EEMS helps us forecast that," Ms. Forrest explains. "We can provide those figures to each department and show them their costs and average utility rates."
  • Within the first two months of using the EEMS, the system uncovered $20,000 in billing errors. Additional cost efficiencies are expected to save the region about $70,000 each year.
  • York Region uses the EEMS in its Building Energy Feasibility Studies, funded in part by a grant from the Green Municipal Fund, to validate emission reductions. To date, it has reviewed approximately 20 buildings using the software. It will also use EEMS to track emission reduction credits that it could sell on Canada's emerging carbon market, which could become an ongoing source of municipal revenue.
  • York Region will recoup development costs for the software through additional licences to other municipalities. The licensing framework also fosters a dialogue between York Region and licensees so that information can be shared among municipalities.

Lessons Learned

  • RETAIN PROFESSIONAL SOFTWARE DEVELOPERS. York Region could not have developed such extensive software on its own. Once it established the criteria required for the system, it used outside expertise to design and test the software.
  • TAKE A CHANCE. York Region identified a gap in its information collection and analysis methods and made it a priority to find a solution. "A lot of municipalities don't think they should be in the software business, but if you identify an issue that's impeding your performance, don't be afraid to innovate and market your solutions," says Ms. Forrest.
  • TEST, TEST, TEST! Substantial testing was done on the EEMS over several months to ensure that it was user-friendly and contained all of the necessary information and features.

Partners and Collaboration

Internal

  • All regional departments were engaged in planning and provided feedback during the development and testing phases. Two regional staff steered the final design of the EEMS and conducted user testing, and one staff member administers the system.

External

  • Regional Municipality of Waterloo, Ontario
  • Town of Markham, Ontario
  • Partners for Climate Protection
  • Green Municipal Fund
  • These two early licensees also participated in user testing and were part of the software development team. 
Page Updated: 21/12/2015