Engage Elected Officials

Collaborate with a political champion and engage council

Council support is critical for implementation, as it provides direction, inspiration and impetus for local government staff, and the community, to prioritize community energy planning. Communities that take the time to engage with a political champion and council on an ongoing basis may be better positioned to move forward on implementation. Early engagement can help to surface key questions, considerations and possible challenges and can guide the CEP implementation team to focus on the aspects of the plan that matter most to the community.

Consider the following when engaging with political champions and elected officials, including when to engage them, why to engage them and how to engage them.

Collaborating with Political Champions

Who to engage When to engage them
  • While some communities may have an existing political champion for community energy, many must work to engage and foster a champion
  • Engage an elected official that actively supports community energy initiatives (consider a councillor that supports alternative modes of transportation, energy efficiency, distributed energy projects, waste management, etc.)
  • If none of your councillors actively support community energy initiatives consider engaging a councillor supportive of improved community health, social, resilience or economic development
  • Consider engaging multiple political champions as a way to strengthen overall support for the CEP and in an effort to mitigate the risks associated with political turnover
  • Engage a political champion as early as possible
  • The champion should remain engaged throughout the CEP development and implementation process
Why engage them How to engage them and what to focus on
  • A political champion can establish legitimacy, generate widespread buy-in and secure resources for the community energy planning process.
  • They can act as a liaison between the CEP development and implementation teams and council
  • They may be available to provide insights to ensure the CEP is developed with the public interest in mind
  • If you do not have a personal connection with elected officials in your community consider reaching out to the office of the identified elected official by phone and have an informal discussion
  • Present a clear and inspiring message that can easily be championed
  • Send the elected official a letter describing the rationale for the CEP and the potential value it will add to the community and summarize how you would like the champion to be engaged in the CEP process
  • The mandate of the political champion should include promoting the CEP, meeting with other elected officials to discuss the potential value, risks and benefits of the CEP and participating in key CEP meetings

Building Widespread Support from Elected Officials

Who to engage When to engage them
  • Council
  • Committees of Council with a mandate related to community energy
  • Agencies, boards and commissions tasked with providing input to council on special topics
  • Chief Administrative Officer (CAO). CAOs are responsible for the administrative management and operations of local governments and for ensuring that resolutions and by-laws of council are implemented efficiently and effectively
  • Engage council once before beginning the CEP
  • At least once per quarter during CEP development
  • On a frequent basis during CEP implementation
  • Annually
  • Consider election and budget cycles and CAO turnover
Why engage them How to engage them and what to focus on
  • Council support is critical for implementation. Their continued interest in the CEP can help garner support from other community stakeholders and can ensure that the CEP remains a priority in local government staff work plans
  • Council can allocate funding for implementation for staff time, project capital or maintenance costs and for programs
  • CAO support is a significant success factor for CEP implementation. While the CAO may not be directly involved in the implementation of actions, their support is critical for signalling the importance of the CEP to the council and other local government departments
  • Brief introductory presentations to council and/or committees of council before the CEP is started (consider having the champion present to council)
  • Focus on the value proposition of the CEP. Describe how the implementation of the plan will enable the local government to meet goals established in council’s Strategic Plan
  • Meetings (up to a half-day) to present risks assessments, proposed investments, and the value proposition before the plan is presented for adoption. If possible, use visual tools such as energy maps29 to illustrate your points. Present the CEP as a good investment. Emphasize the risks associated with notimplementing the plan. Back your claims up by detailed, precise and defensible data
  • Describe the costs of the plan and who bears the costs as well as what the proposed savings are, and to whom the savings accrue
  • In the early stages of CEP development invite other groups or agencies to present to council or committees of council as well. Consider inviting health agencies, school boards, homebuilders associations etc. that can speak to the value of community energy planning
  • Brief introductory presentations to agencies/boards/commissions that have a mandate related to community energy (including health, social, resilience, etc.)
  • Once the CEP is adopted, present regular (e.g. quarterly) staff reports to council or committees of council. Reports can be mostly qualitative however measurable updates can be included if the data is available
  • After the CEP is adopted provide an annual report to council describing measurable benefits of implementation (e.g. progress on GHG reductions and Key Performance Indicators)
  • Consider additional presentations to council as-needed to report on CEP development and implementation milestones

Case Studies

Case Study 2

Measuring the Widespread Economic Benefits in the City of London, Ontario

The City of London, Ontario has conducted an economic analysis to measure various economic impacts and potential benefits of implementing their Community Energy Action Plan (CEAP). The analyses, conducted in-house, demonstrate community-wide energy spending, the proportion of energy spending leaving the local economy and the potential to recirculate energy spending based on the implementation of their plan.

The approach undertaken and resources are available here:

Case Study 3

Measuring Green Jobs in Durham Region, Ontario

The Region of Durham Community Climate Change Local Action Plan highlights the estimated environmental, economic and social impacts of implementation. The plan is available at: Durham Region (2012). From Vision to Action Region of Durham Community Climate Change Local Action Plan.

Case Study 4

Measuring the Impacts of Sustainable Communities on Local Retail Sales New York City, New York

The New York City Department of Transportation created a methodology for measuring the economic impacts of improved streetscapes and active transportation infrastructure on retail sales. The study is available here: New York City Department of Transportation (December 2013). The Economic Benefits of Sustainable Streets.

Case Study 5

Framing the Value Proposition, Edmonton, Alberta

The City of Edmonton, Alberta (population 812,000) adopted Edmonton’s Community Energy Transition Strategy in April 2015 and a corresponding City Policy C585 in August 2015.78 The Strategy, which represents a renewal and upgrade of their 2001 plan, was approved unanimously by City Council. Based on extensive citizen consultation, the strategy includes twelve strategic courses of action and an eight-year action plan with more than 150 tactics.

There is a lesson to be learned in how Edmonton’s Sustainable Development Department communicated the need for the strategy. First, it was framed as a risk management strategy designed to protect Edmonton’s quality-of life from climate and energy risks. Secondly, it provided a compelling economic business case involving ten community-scale programs (for advancing energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy uptake) that would deliver a net public benefit of $3.3 billion over 20 years.

Case Study 21

Integrated Financial Planning in the City of Coquitlam, British Columbia

Coquitlam’s award-winning integrated financial planning framework is comprised of three separate but complementary planning processes. These processes result in a set of integrated plans that support the overall vision and mission of the City and align activities and resources to achieve the strategic goals and annual business plan priorities set by Council.

  • Council’s Strategic Plan – aspirational, future-looking plan, updated every four years following the municipal election. It articulates the vision, mission, values and broad strategic goals. Progress of the plan is monitored through an annual review of key performance measures and accomplishments
  • Business Plan – translates the high level strategic goals into annual business plan work items and priorities, established by Council. A set of performance measures are reviewed annually to monitor success of the business plan
  • Financial Plan – provides the resourcing strategy to support the strategic and business plans. Updated annually, it is a five-year plan that includes both operating and capital components

Evaluation of achievements informs the next cycle of planning. For example, the City’s performance is reviewed every four months with a Trimester Report to Council. It includes an update on the progress of the work items under the Business Plan priorities and a review of operating and capital budget variances, labour vacancies, economic indicators including construction and development activities, and major spending during the trimester. The intent of the report is to view the City’s activities and progress balanced with the status of the City’s financial and human resources.

In this model, it is important that staff responsible for developing and implementing the CEP ensure that its goals and actions are reflected in Council’s (strategic) plan and that these goals and actions maintain a high profile throughout the budgeting/financial plan process.

See the Strategic Plan here: City of Coquitlam (2012). 2012-2015 Strategic Plan.