Ontario Construction News staff writer
The University of Toronto will receive $56 million in financing from the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) to accelerate plans to create a “climate positive” campus.
Through the launch of Project LEAP, U of T will use federal financing to complete deep energy retrofit projects – converting gas boilers to electric boilers and installing energy storage solutions – to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50 per cent, or 45,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalents, by the end of the decade.
The project will also involve private sector partners that will provide additional financing while meeting stringent performance requirements.
“The University of Toronto is a global leader in addressing the urgent challenge of climate change,” U of T President Meric Gertler said. “Our Climate Positive plan is transforming energy sources and reducing energy consumption on our historic St. George campus. This will help us ensure we can deliver on our mission of excellence in research and learning more sustainably for generations to come.
Funding will be used for retrofit projects at the St. George Campus located in downtown Toronto, including 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; establishing a local, low-carbon energy source which will supply renewable energy; and implementing green-technology solutions such as carbon capture, energy storage and waste-to-fuel.
The CIB’s financing will help the St. George Campus become climate positive by 2050 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) across the campus by about 50 per cent or 45,000 tonnes annually.
U of T and CIB are expected to reach financial close in Summer 2023.
“We are proud to partner with a distinguished institution such as University of Toronto and invest in the ambition of leading institutions in becoming climate positive for years to come and support their continued academic and research excellence,” said Ehren Cory, Canada Infrastructure Bank CEO.
“We look forward to collaborating with other academic institutions to help them achieve their ambitious environmental goals.”
This is CIB’s first partnership with an academic institution and is expected to save U of T more than $13 million over 25 years via lower interest rates on the CIB-financed projects.
“We hope this is a call to action for others in the public institution space,” Cory said. “We, as the broader public sector, own a lot of the building stock in this country – and a lot of the aged and less energy efficient building stock in this country.”
“This announcement is a major milestone, but it’s just a step in your journey and we’re excited to be with you the whole way.”
There are also plans to pilot green technology solutions such as carbon capture, utilization and a waste-to-fuel “digester” that would take the more than 500 kilograms of organic waste and convert it into fuel to heat buildings.
“The impact will be massive – it will not only improve what happens inside those buildings, but our academic mission, too,” said Saporta. “We have classes and courses across campus that are studying these types of retrofits, but this is an opportunity to see it in real life.”
Saporta said the partnership marks an exciting milestone on U of T’s climate positive journey.
“It’s driving all of us to get to that climate positive goal as fast as we can.”