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U of T receives CIB funding for deep energy retrofits

The University of Toronto will receive up to $56 million from the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB...

IMAGE: Ehren Cory, CIB CEO, at University of Toronto

CIB CEO Ehren Cory announcing the funding partnership with the University of Toronto. (Photo courtesy of Johhny Guatto/University of Toronto)

The University of Toronto will receive up to $56 million from the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) to be applied to several deep energy retrofits at the university’s downtown St. George campus.

This is the CIB’s first investment with a Canadian university and the second investment under its Building Retrofits Initiative, which seeks to achieve significant energy savings from public sector infrastructure.

The projects include switching one of four gas boilers to electric and installing a supplemental steam turbine in the central heating plant, deep energy retrofits of six academic buildings and establishing a local, low-carbon energy source which will supply renewable energy through avenues such as solar technology. There will also be deep energy retrofits of two labs and the Earth Sciences Centre.

Further, there are plans to pilot green technology solutions such as carbon capture, utilization and a waste-to-fuel digester that would take more than 500 kg of organic waste and convert it into fuel to heat buildings.

“Underneath our campus, we have one of Canada’s largest and oldest district energy systems,” Ron Saporta, the University of Toronto’s chief operating officer of property services and sustainability, told U of T News. “It’s over 120 years old and it’s the primary contributor to a lot of our carbon emissions because it heats and powers up buildings.”

“This project allows us to modernize that system and to start to migrate away from fossil fuels as the primary heating source. We can upgrade energy-intensive buildings to reduce the amount of carbon they emit.”

U of T’s climate positive plan

The plan is for the campus to become “climate positive” or net-negative by 2050 and to reduce GHG emissions by 37 per cent by 2030 compared to 1990 baselines — which amounted to 91,000 tonnes of equivalent carbon dioxide at the time.

To reach net-negative emissions, the university plans to have 80 per cent absolute carbon reductions, with the remaining 20 per cent balanced by off-campus clean energy production.

The financing partnership is expected to save the university more than $13 million over 25 years via lower interest rates on the CIB-financed projects.

“The University of Toronto is a global leader in addressing the urgent challenge of climate change. Our Climate Positive plan will transform the energy sources on our campuses to ensure we can deliver on our mission of excellence in research and learning for generations to come,” said Meric Gertler, the university’s president, in a statement on the funding.

“We are grateful to the CIB for recognizing and supporting our commitment to Canada’s net-zero targets and to harnessing the innovation of cleantech startups on our campuses and beyond.”

To date, the CIB has committed more than $800 million toward building energy retrofits. The bank seeks to invest up to $5 billion into green infrastructure.

The university’s President’s Advisory Committee on the Environment, Climate Change and Sustainability was established in February, 2017. One of its targets is to have 1,000 students annually participating in sustainability-oriented projects and 5,000 students participating in community-based projects with partner organizations.

U of T and CIB are expected to reach financial close by next summer.

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