Written by: Stewart Fast, OREC Board Member

Is it possible to power modern, industrialized, mixed urban and rural regions like Ottawa with 100% local renewable energy sources? Yes it is. That is the message from 140 different regions in Germany. They all have qualified for recognition as 100% renewable energy regions from a program sponsored by the German Federal Environment Ministry and administered by the “Institute for distributed energy technologies“.

Their 100% renewable energy region program works a bit like the LEED building rating system that many people might already be familiar with. There are criteria against which the region is rated against and if it gets enough points it qualifies. There are two ratings : starter and pioneer. The criteria include things like knowing the current energy mix, what are the current goals for renewables, level of institutional support (e.g. municipal council or other), and of course progress to 100% renewables.

The region of Steinfurt is a good example. Located in the northwest of Germany it is a mix of urban and agricultural land with a population of about half of Ottawa and taking up about 2/3rds of the area that Ottawa does. First the region conducted a detailed inventory of energy use in all sectors (heat, electricity and fuels) discovering along the way that energy expenditures were 1.4 billion euros annually. The opportunity to procure that energy locally and add value to the region was a great motivator for the region’s government.

Steinfurt has set a goal to be 100% renewable powered by 2050. This will be achieved by reducing overall energy use and taking advantage of wind, solar, bioenergy and hydro sources that exist in the area. The two diagrams below show the current (2010) flows of energy and the future flows of energy. You might notice that industrial activity and transportation is maintained in the 2050 scenario.

Regions like Steinfurt believe it is possible to be powered by 100% renewables. What would it take for Ottawa to pursue this kind of path? Some first steps are: 1) the City needs to know more about our current energy mix, how much do we use, where does it come from and how much is it costing us? 2) how much energy potential exists within our regional boundaries? A few of these kinds of studies have been done but there is a need to coordinate information. 3) Finally, and most importantly, is to get talking about this kind of vision.

CURRENT (2010) Energy mix for Steinfurt Germany


PROPOSED Energy Mix for Steinfurt, Germany (2050)


(Figures credited to the Office for Climate Protection and Sustainability, District of Steinfurt)