VPPA purchase: slashes 36,515 tCO2e over 20 years.


Additional options: reduce emissions by 1,200 to 3,100 tCO2e.


Select options promise cost savings.


Emphasis on synergy between renewables and energy efficiency.


The Town of Canmore’s 2018 Climate Action Plan (CAP) set several targets for GHG emissions reduction, including a goal to reduce municipal emissions by 50 percent between 2015 and 2030. While it listed more than 60 ways to achieve these reductions and recommended setting a renewable energy target, the plan lacked robust cost-benefit modelling, which staff needed before they could proceed. 

Project goals 

Canmore wanted to conduct a renewable energy feasibility study to confirm which approaches would be the most impactful and cost-effective, and to help them set an ambitious yet feasible target. The council approved the capital funding for this study in 2019, and in 2020, the Town received matching funding from FCM’s Green Municipal Fund to help increase the study’s scope.  


Canmore decided to focus its study on renewable energy rather than a broader approach to emissions reduction based on budgetary constraint and the complexity of the CAP’s renewable energy actions. The study had three objectives: 

  1. Explore and prioritize various renewable energy options
  2. Identify which renewable energy projects were the best choices to pursue in the short-term
  3. Decide on the Town’s renewable energy target

Multiple criteria were used to evaluate a range of options, including cost, equity, technical feasibility, emissions reduction, public perception, local resource availability and local job creation. The five highest-potential options were chosen for further exploration: 

  1. Making the new fire station net zero, 
  2. Entering into a virtual power purchase agreement (VPPA), 
  3. Installing solar canopies on municipal parking lots and one municipal facility rooftop, 
  4. Incentivizing solar power installations on private rooftops, and; 
  5. A retrofit program for lower-income households. 

Consultants were hired to conduct a detailed feasibility study for each option, with the results compiled into a marginal abatement cost curve (MACC). 


The study found that the most effective tool to reduce the Town’s GHG emissions would be to purchase a VPPA, which would result in reducing 36,515 tonnes of CO2 equivalent (tCO2e) over 20 years. Projected emissions reductions from the remaining four options ranged from 1,200 to 3,100 tCO2e over 20 to 25 years, and several options—the VPPA, an air-source heat pump for the fire station and two specific solar projects—were predicted to result in cost savings as well. 

While the focus of the study was renewable energy, it became clear throughout the process that energy efficiency and renewable energy are complementary goals and that efforts to reduce emissions must take both into account. 

Lessons learned 

This feasibility study was needed because Canmore’s 2018 CAP did not have the budget to model savings or analyze costs. It was recommended to other municipalities that it would be more efficient and useful to include comprehensive GHG and financial modelling of both renewables and energy efficiency in climate plans from the beginning. 

Breaking the full project into five individual feasibility studies had the benefit of studying more options in greater detail for the same budget, as well as hiring separate consultants with targeted expertise. However, this extended timelines, created extra work during tendering and resulted in inconsistent study approaches and formats, which meant that additional analysis was needed to create the MACC. To Canmore, the benefits were worth the extra work, but other communities should weigh the options when making this decision. 

To benefit equity-deserving residents, studies like this should include equity as a key factor when choosing which emissions reduction tools to prioritize.  

Next steps

Since the feasibility study was finalized, the following actions have taken place: 

  • The fire station was completed and is the first municipal building in Canmore to use an air-source heat pump. 
  • The Town is aiming to finalize its Climate Emergency Action Plan (CEAP), which updates and replaces the 2018 CAP and 2016 Climate Adaptation and Resilience Strategy, by summer 2024. This document will include further consideration of a VPPA and modelling of additional energy conservation measures. 
  • The Town already has over 1 MW of solar panels between five buildings. Additional solar energy projects are being considered in future budgets. 
  • A new Climate Action Incentive program using the Town’s Sustainability Reserve Fund has been approved by Council. It includes lottery-based residential and commercial solar incentives as well as an energy-efficiency retrofit pilot program targeted at lower-income households. 

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