Plans & Policies

Embed the CEP into plans and policies

Community energy planning is a unique process that unlike most local government initiatives, crosses over many departmental and organizational boundaries. CEPs, however, often fall short on being integrated into the existing plans and policies in local government because there typically lacks a process to integrate the CEP once it has been adopted by council (see Table 4: CEP Development and Implementation Process). Local governments frequently operate in silos. Buildings and development, land use, transportation, and waste, are planned for through separate processes.

Once a CEP is adopted, consider taking the important step of integrating the CEP into plans and policies immediately after CEP adoption.

GTI Advice

The Getting to Implementation in Canada (GTI) Initiative, designed by QUEST Canada, is a tool to help communities move Community Energy Plans from a vision to implementation.  Strategies in this framework were derived from the GTI Initiative.

Cast a wide net, and be strategic:

Identify all opportunities to integrate the CEP into plans, policies and by-laws immediately after CEP adoption. Consider the timing for when some or all of the plans will be renewed and embed the CEP strategically


Engage with all stakeholders, including staff and community stakeholders, that will be impacted by when and how the actions identified in a CEP are embedded into plans and policies. Obtain stakeholder input on how the plans and policies can be designed and/or amended to result in positive impacts


Proceed with embedding the CEP actions into the plans and policies selected. Ensure that the clauses and policies are designed to maximize impacts and benefits of CEP implementation. Amend the identified plans, policies, by-laws and regulations as soon as possible after the opportunities have been identified to ensure that goals and actions included in the CEP remain top of mind for Council, staff and community stakeholders

Be adaptable:

The CEP is a living document and should be renewed and amended over time. Include clauses within policies and plans that allows changes to be made to the CEP without requiring additional amendments, for example, “the goals and actions of the Community Energy Plan, as amended from time to time”50

Be explicit:

Refer to the CEP goals and objectives within each plan, policy, by-law and regulation in a specific way, so that the direction set by the CEP and its impact on the plan is clear. Figure 7 describes light and deep approaches for embedding the CEP into plans and policies

Follow up:

Ensure that staff and community stakeholders are aware of new and amended policies. For example, if new development permit requirements are introduced, ensure that staff working in the development permit department are trained on the changes
Figure 7 – Approaches to Embedding the CEP into Plans and Policies

Often, the integration of energy into local plans and policies will have implications for community stakeholders. Ensure that community stakeholders are consulted during the design of new policies and programs to ensure that supports, requirements and incentives are designed to maximize their uptake.

The following examples describe how a CEP can be embedded into plans, policies, by-laws and regulations. The CEP can be incorporated into these plans as they are being developed, or they can be amended afterwards. All of the plans, policies, by-laws and regulations listed below should be considered in your community. Consider how lightly or deeply the CEP should be embedded into each plan and policy.

Embed the CEP into Plans

A Strategic Plan is a council-led plan that identifies priorities, typically over a four year period. It can also include a 20-40 year vision.

Strategic Plans can be used to embed or apply an energy lens on decision-making.  Making the environment or energy security a priority at the community level allows Council to make strategic investments in studies and plans like community energy plans, environmental master plans, or targeted plans and policies related to energy.  It also allows funds to be allocated to these types of studies.

Council Strategic Plan in City of Coquitlam, British Columbia: The City of Coquitlam, British Columbia’s strategic plan, contains actions related to implementing the Community Greenhouse Gas Reduction Strategy including:

  • Creating an energy efficient community
  • Implementing district energy where feasible
  • Developing policies to encourage higher performance buildings, passive design, and renewable energy51

 Council Strategic Plan in Burlington, Ontario: The Burlington strategic plan, Burlington, Our Future, includes actions to improve energy management within the community as a way to achieve economic prosperity. Actions within the Strategic Plan include:

  • Promoting and encouraging lower community energy consumption
  • Expanding renewable energy initiatives
  • Developing a Community Energy Plan52

The City of Burlington successfully developed and adopted a CEP in 2014.53

    Official Plans outline growth objectives and guide the land use planning of a community. Depending on the Province or Territory and the community, can be called an Official Plan, Official Community Plan, Development Plan, Master Plan, Municipal Plan, or Comprehensive Plan. For many communities the Official Plan guides all land use making decisions. CEP actions related to integrating land use and transportation, enhancing energy efficiency, and accelerating the implementation of distributed energy resources, can be included in an Official Plan.

    The Regional Municipality of York, Ontario: The Regional Municipality of York Official Plan, encouragesall local municipalities within its jurisdiction to develop a CEP and requires local municipalities to develop CEPs for Regional Centres, which are primary focal areas for intensive development. It also requires local municipalities to develop CEPs for each new community area to reduce community energy demands, optimize passive solar gains through design, maximize active transportation and transit, and make use of renewable, on-site generation and district energy options including but not limited to solar, wind, water, biomass, and geothermal energy.54

    The Resort Municipality of Whistler, British Columbia: The Resort Municipality of Whistler notes in its Official Community Plan that “As a signatory to the BC Climate Action Charter the Council of the Resort Municipality of Whistler has expressed its understanding that anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are affecting the global climate; that reducing these emissions is therefore beneficial and important to all citizens; and that governments must act promptly to mitigate climate change. The Municipality considers it appropriate to adopt targets, policies and actions intended to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases within Whistler and resulting from activities related to the ongoing operation of the resort community. The targets are stated below, along with related policies and actions. Other relevant policies and actions are found throughout the OCP, because the Municipality recognizes that reducing greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved by all sectors of the resort community, and in all aspects of its operation.”55

    Through the Secondary Plan process, communities can create the conditions for CEP implementation by encouraging or requiring increased population and/or employment densities, land use mixes, transit-oriented development, distributed energy resources, etc.

    Secondary Plan in the City of Toronto, Ontario: In 2014, the City of Toronto adopted the Scarborough Centre Secondary Plan which encourages developers to accommodate renewable energy generation and distribution systems, as well as charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. The policies are as follows:

    1.4.9 Community Energy

    • New development and the re-development of existing buildings within the McCowan Precinct will contribute to achieving the City’s target for reducing energy use and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Proponents of new development and redevelopment of existing buildings will be guided by the Community Energy Plan prepared as part of the McCowan Precinct Plan Study (2014) and will work with the City to assess opportunities to contribute to the City’s energy targets through sustainable development.
    • Development is encouraged to promote and accommodate renewable energy generation and distribution systems to assist in reducing greenhouse emissions, off- setting on site energy consumption, and securing a sustainable and stable energy distribution and supply. Energy technologies such as geothermal, combined heat and power co-generation, solar thermal heating, solar cooling, heat recovery, short- and long-term energy storage, and solar photo-voltaic will be encouraged. Building design and site planning to achieve passive solar heating in cold weather months will also be encouraged.
    • Development will be encouraged to incorporate facilities to re-charge electric-powered vehicles either as a private or common amenity for building occupants or on pay-per-use basis for the general public.56

    Other plans include Transportation Plans, Urban Forest Management Plans, Housing Plans, Solid Waste Plans, Economic Development Plans, Sustainability Plans and others.

    Most CEPs will contain actions that relate to transportation, urban forest management, housing and solid waste, among others. Staff developing these plans should become aware of the actions in the CEP and how they impact their work plans.

    Communications Plans

    The communications department is responsible can incorporate the CEP into both internal and external communications.

    Internal Communications

    • Update staff on CEP implementation often through internal communications channels
    • Encourage staff to share anecdotes on CEP implementation with the communications department so that they may be disseminated frequently

     External Communications

    • Engage with the public when deemed appropriate (e.g. for program implementation and significant CEP updates). See Strategy 7: Engage Community Stakeholders and Recognize their Implementation Progress
    • Some local governments administer household/business surveys. Consider including questions within the survey that may provide data for Key Performance Indicators. See Strategy 8: Monitor and Report on CEP Implementation

    Community Improvement Plans

    Community Improvement Plans (CIPs) allow cities/communities to create the conditions to increase densities and/or encourage brownfield redevelopment for a designated area within a municipality. CIPs can help trigger development supportive of active transportation, use of public transportation and can even help concentrate development, and consequently energy end use, in a way that improves the business case for distributed energy resources.

    CIPs in Moncton, New Brunswick: In 2015, The City of Moncton introduced a financial incentive program to revitalize vacant and under-utilized properties within the Downtown Community Improvement Plan area. The program aims to enhance mixed-use, sustainable and transit-oriented development in the downtown core.65

    CIPs in Calgary, Alberta: In 2002, The Apex Corporation completed The Renaissance at North Hill, in Calgary. The project illustrates that redevelopment of large shopping centre parking lots to provide residential units can reap benefits for both the mall owners and developers. The developer considers good communications with surrounding neighbours, as well as building good relationships with the City, to be key factors.66

    Embed the CEP into Policies

    Zoning by-laws state how land will be used in a community and outlines specific requirements for building use, density, height, size, and location. Zoning by-laws and amendments can be used to encourage or require intensification targets, the integration of land use and transportation, the acceleration of alternative modes of transportation, distributed energy resources, and energy efficiency requirements.

    Energy efficiency in the City of Halifax, Nova Scotia: In 2010, a series of by-laws and by-law amendments were adopted by Halifax City Council whereby a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the City and Refreshments Canada requiring the vending industry to voluntarily improve the energy efficiency of the vending machine fleet over 3 years. The estimated cost savings of the program were $500,000 per year and an annual reduction of 5,000 tons of GHG emissions. VendingMisers installed on the vending machines resulted in a 25-50 percent reduction in energy consumption per machine.57

    Distributed energy resources in the City of Vancouver, British Columbia: In 2013, the City of Vancouver adopted a by-law requiring owners of new buildings proposed for construction and existing buildings undergoing significant alterations in the Southeast False Creek neighborhood to connect to the local district energy system.58

    Distributed energy resources in the City of Calgary, Alberta: The City of Calgary adopted revisions to the Centre City By-law providing incentives for green building features including district energy connections, co-generation facilities and electric vehicle charging stations, among others.59

    Increasing density and compact, mixed-use communities in the City of Calgary, Alberta: The City of Calgary adopted a zoning by-law amendment rezoning a mall parking lot to allow for a high-density residential development in a mixed use area. The development provided residents with greater access to essential services and amenities and reduced their dependency on private vehicles.60

    Increasing density and compact, mixed-use communities in Koo’s Corner, British Columbia: In 2002, Koo’s Corner, located in the Strathcona neighbourhood in Vancouver, British Columbia was completed. The project represents a best practices as it relates to infill development. The City of Vancouver allowed a higher density for the project than what was permitted in the Vancouver Charter, enabling the project to be viable.61

    Increasing density and compact, mixed-use communities in the City of Richmond, British Columbia: The City of Richmond identified as a priority in its 2014 Community Energy and Emissions Plan to review subdivision by-laws to encourage transit-oriented design to support investments in active transportation infrastructure.62

    Parking incentives in the City of Hamilton, Ontario: The City of Hamilton amended its Zoning By-law to support a transit-oriented multi-residential building, reducing parking space requirements from 1 space per unit in a multi-unit residential dwellings to 0.47 parking spaced per unit due to the building being located in a transit-oriented neighborhood.63

    Site plan control is a tool that local governments can use to ensure that certain requirements are met before a site is developed. By including design considerations in site plans, communities can promote energy and GHG reduction activities, including energy efficiency requirements such as those used in outdoor lighting.

    Site plan control in Toronto, Ontario: The Toronto Green Standard (TGS) uses site plan approvals to require new private and public development to meet green building requirements. As of January 31, 2010, the City of Toronto uses this two-tiered set of performance measures for new development, organized by three building types. It requires planning applications, including zoning by-law amendments, site plan approval and draft plan of subdivision to meet Tier 1 requirements. Tier 1 requirements are mandatory and Tier 2, a higher level of performance, is voluntary. These performance measures were instituted to address a number of issues, consistent with the Official Plan’s broad policies, including air and water quality, greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency, solid waste and the natural environment.71

    Height and density bonusing allows developers to exceed height and density limits established in zoning by-laws, in exchange for community benefits.

    Height and density bonusing in the City of Port Coquitlam, British Columbia: In 2008, the City of Port Coquitlam adopted a regulation allowing developers to be eligible for density bonusing if proposed developments achieve LEED Silver Certification equivalency in designated areas within the municipality. Funds collected are deposited into the City’s facilities amenity fund and the social housing amenity fund and are allocated to meet council’s strategic goals.64

    A plan of subdivision is used when dividing land into two or more lots intended for separate ownership and outlines all the details and conditions required for development. A community could integrate an energy lens into the approval process by including considerations regarding walkability, the creation of compact neighbourhoods, energy conservation through street and lot layout to optimize passive solar gains and conditions for use of photovoltaics, and the construction of energy efficient homes.

    Plans of subdivision in the City of Toronto, Ontario: The City of Toronto requires large development proposals within a Community Energy Plan area to submit an Energy Strategy. This requirement applies to Plans of Subdivision and Official Plan and Zoning By-law amendments.68

    Plans of subdivision in the City of Richmond, British Columbia: The City of Richmond identified as a priority in its 2014 Community Energy and Emissions Plan to review subdivision by-laws to encourage transit-oriented design to support investments in active transportation infrastructure.69

    Development permit areas/systems combine site plan control, zoning, and minor variance together in one application format, providing an expedited and simplified application process. Development permit systems can include requirements for brownfield redevelopment, green roof installation, water conservation measures, street and lot layout that reduces energy consumption, transportation demand management, installation of distributed energy resources, and to encourage energy efficiency and GHG reductions.

    Development permit areas in Calgary, Alberta: In 2015, the City of Calgary introduced a Development Permit Exemption program to simplify the implementation of secondary suites in specified land use districts within Calgary. The program waives the application fees for secondary suites and in some cases eliminates the requirement to submit a development permit. A secondary suite is a separate living unit created within a single-family home. A by-law allowing secondary suites encourages neighbourhood intensification.70

    Development cost charges in the City of Penticton, British Columbia: The City of Penticton reduces Development Cost Charges for low energy impact developments by 50 percent.72

    Development cost charges in the Niagara Region, Ontario: The Niagara Region Development Charges Reduction Program offers development charge exemptions ranging from 50-75 percent for developments located within central areas, or on brownfield sites within central areas and for LEED projects.73

    Parking charges can provide a variety of benefits, including traffic reduction, increased turnover of spaces, reduced cruising for parking, and new revenue for the municipality. Parking charges are often used in tandem with an overall reduction in parking spaces, which leads to more compact development and promotes alternative forms of transportation. In turn, energy consumption and emissions are reduced.

    Parking Charges in the Town of Banff, Alberta: In 2014 the Town of Banff, Alberta introduced a parking charge pilot program converting free parking in the downtown core to paid parking in an effort to encourage the uptake of alternative modes of transportation among residents and tourists.74