This is part of a series of seven case studies that highlight members of ICLEI Canada's and FCM's Partners for Climate Protection program that have reached Milestone 5.
|Population||PCP member since||GHG reduction target|
|6,551 (2016 Census)||2013||Corporate: 20% below 2009 levels by 2020
Community: 10% below 2009 levels by 2020
Targets progress: By 2017, the city was within 4% of its corporate target, and estimates show that actual corporate reductions will be closer to 27% by 2020.
In recent years, all of Plessisville's citizens have made climate change their business. As elected officials, we are the first to be happy about this. We don't consider it to be a fad or a way to have a clear conscience. Although climate change, by definition, is a long-term phenomenon and many of its consequences will only be visible in 50 years, we, in Plessisville, have decided not to wait. We want to make sure that the next generation will not fall victim to our neglect. With our action plan and our own Green Municipal Fund, we are taking action now!
— Mario Fortin, Mayor of Plessisville
The City of Plessisville, QC, is proof that small municipalities can have a big impact on greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions. Early estimates show that its corporate emissions target will be exceeded by 2020, and the city is on track to meet its community target. Plessisville is densely populated (the city is only 4.45 km2 in area) and is surrounded by large agricultural areas. Like many other Canadian municipalities that struggle with competing rural-urban priorities, the actions that Plessisville takes impact more than just its own residents.
In 2005, Plessisville adopted a sustainable development mission statement, and in 2015, the city approved an ambitious 10-year strategic plan that included 125 actions based on environmental and smart city principles.
Plessisville's strategic plan includes a number of projects, including encouraging public transportation, switching its streetlights to LED, anti-idling initiatives, new bike paths, tree planting, and rebates for efficient toilets, the purchase of cloth diapers, and installation of electric vehicle charging stations.
Plessisville is focused on creatively meeting the challenge of reducing emissions. General Manager Alain Desjardins explains that for climate change initiatives to capture the imagination of a community, residents must be educated about the benefits and potential impacts that local actions have. Residents need to see that the environment doesn't have to come at the cost of quality of life.
"It is not so much about what it costs, but rather what it contributes, to a community," he says. Plessisville's success is helping to forge a new vision for the municipality. The city's long-term vision is to be completely independent of external energy sources by 2030.
Key projects and results
City buildings switched to natural gas
The City of Plessisville has retrofitted several of its municipal buildings to lead by example and reduce its GHG emissions and energy costs. The city switched its building heating systems from oil to natural gas and electricity. The town hall, public library, recreational arena, municipal garage, and other small buildings have all been renovated, and the town's streetlights have all been switched to LEDs.
- The retrofits and new LED lighting have reduced GHG emissions by 81.4 tonnes.
- Air quality has improved as a result of lower GHG emissions.
- Annual energy costs have been reduced by more than 30 per cent.
- Savings from new LED streetlights are about $25,000 annually.
- Lower energy costs allow the municipality to maintain municipal tax levels, or even reduce them over time, which makes life more affordable for residents. The city has not raised taxes since 2013.
Electric cars, vehicle sharing and the SAUVéR project
When the town of Plessisville heard about the SAUVéR project (Système d'autopartage avec véhicule électrique en région — a vehicle sharing program), elected officials, staff and residents wanted in. Plessisville was the first to test the SAUVéR program and, to date, the town has purchased two electric vehicles, which it loans to Plessisville residents. The municipality also has plans to include its city fleet of electric cars and trucks as loaners to residents in the near future. The purchase of new electric vehicles will occur as older vehicles are retired. Not only does vehicle sharing show residents how they can reduce GHG emissions, notes Desjardins — it's also a huge personal cost saving for each resident that participates.
- Most of Quebec's electricity is generated by renewable resources (hydroelectric), so electric vehicles use renewable energy while eliminating the vehicle emissions associated with gasoline-fueled cars.
- A membership in SAUVéR costs only $6 and includes rental of the vehicle, gas or electrical charging, insurance, and repairs.
- Residents of Plessisville can avoid purchasing a new vehicle and instead share the city fleet or borrow an electric vehicle.
- Residents can be proud that they are helping to reduce their personal carbon footprint.
Green Fund and innovative financing
In 2014, Plessisville created its Green Fund to help finance some of the town's environmental programs. The fund is now valued at close to $1 million, the equivalent of more than $125 per resident. In 2016, it also joined FIME (Financement innovateur pour des municipalités efficaces / innovative financing for efficient municipalities) to learn about and apply innovative ways to finance its projects and programs.
Many of Plessisville's homes were built in the 1930s, 40s and 50s and are inefficient. As part of its commitment to reduce GHG emissions through community initiatives, Plessisville offers its residents up to $20,000 in loans, repayable over 20 years through the tax base.
- On average, energy-efficient homes can reduce GHG emissions by 25 to 30 per cent, and use 25 per cent less energy and 11 per cent less water.
- In 2017, 20 homes took advantage of the FIME loans. The loan interest is one per cent or less and savings from renovations are between $1,200 and $1,500 annually — more than the annual costs of the loan repayment. Homeowners can use the energy savings to pay back the loan.
- Renovations increase home value, while supporting local businesses and the local economy. The loan is repaid through the tax base, so if a homeowner decides to sell, the loan is grandfathered into the tax base of the new home buyer.
- Residential renovations have improved housing quality.
- Energy-efficient homes have better indoor air quality.
- The loan program gives residents, who may not have been able to afford a renovation, the opportunity to reduce their personal carbon footprint and makes them more aware of energy use.
- Communicate and educate. Desjardins explains that to get people engaged and enthusiastic about reducing the community's carbon footprint, projects need to be easy to understand and easy to do. "The first challenge is to communicate. The second challenge is to educate," he says. Messages must also be tailored to the city's different population groups and age ranges. "You have to repeat the messages and show that there are no great barriers or difficulties — that there are only solutions and possibilities. It's all about communication, communication, communication."
- Create a system to measure programs and manage assets so that there are no costly surprises related to upgrades and infrastructure. To that end, Plessisville will be one of the first municipalities to participate in FCM's Municipal Asset Management Program.
- Eliminate silos in the municipal structure and get the support of all municipal staff and elected officials. The Plessisville organizational chart is circular. While many organizations might have a hierarchical structure, in Plessisville the circular flow ensures that all elected officials, managers and staff have the information they need to be part of the decision-making process.
Milestone 1 – 2015, 2016 (Corporate, Community)
Milestone 2 – 2015, 2016 (Corporate, Community)
Milestone 3 – 2015, 2016 (Corporate, Community)
Milestone 4 – 2016 (Corporate, Community)
Milestone 5 – 2016 (Corporate, Community)
Green Municipal Fund: Plessisville was among six municipalities to receive GMF funding for the SAUVéR pilot project.
The following resources can help on your journey to achieving Milestone 5:
- Financement innovateur pour des municipalités efficaces (FIME) website
- SAUVéR project website
- Municipal Asset Managment Program
Partners and collaborators
Other regional municipalities: Nicolet, Bromont, Témiscouata-sur-le-Lac, Rivière-du-Loup, Sainte-Julienne and Ville de Varenne, QC; and Saint Quetin and Dieppe, NB.