When you look at a building in Edmonton, the operational infrastructure like sewer pipes, shallow utilities, and grids that lie beneath it do not often come to mind. While tucked out of sight – they play a critical role in advancing Edmonton’s vision of welcoming one million more people to the city.
But are we ready to support this growth from an infrastructure perspective? That question was posed to experts from EPCOR, ATCO, and FortisAlberta late September at Urban Development Institute’s monthly panel presentation.
“The land development industry is actively building new communities in Edmonton’s developing and redeveloping areas and are working to expand into future growth areas over the coming years as our population expands,” said Shane Gerein of Qualico Communities, who moderated the panel. “This conversation helped to shine a light on where we are today and where we need to go.”
One of the speakers, Brodie Chalmers, Manager of Hydrogen System Planning with ATCO, said the region is ready for growth but should pay attention to the challenges associated with lowering our emissions profile.
He highlighted hydrogen as a particular opportunity. In fact, he and his team at ATCO are advancing hydrogen blending infrastructure projects in the Edmonton region, beginning in Fort Saskatchewan later this year.
“Once complete, our Fort Saskatchewan Hydrogen Blending project will be used as a stepping-stone into the Canadian hydrogen market, allowing ATCO to demonstrate its abilities in the sector while working through various requirements.”
He added, “It will act as a critical building block for our energy future.”
Susan Ancel, Director for One Water Planning at EPCOR, noted that from a water, storm, and sewer perspective, EPCOR is ready for growth.
“Water usage is significantly down from the early 1990s,” Ancel said.
At EPCOR, Susan is responsible for the development of strategic plans for water, sanitary and storm water systems in Edmonton.
“And now that we have The City Plan, we can align our services and infrastructure investments with the growth anticipated along key nodes and corridors of the city,” Ancel added. “We’re also actively reassessing the pipe sizes of our major sewer infrastructure considering the success of water conservation and implementing smart sensor technologies to allow us to make better use of existing capacity in ponds and pipes.”
Dave Hunka, Manager of Municipalities with FortisAlberta, noted that regional municipalities have seen approximately 15% growth annually over recent years.
“We’re already seeing growth, and we’re meeting the demand,” said Hunka. “But we have many material challenges to contend with in the foreseeable future – like supply chain disruptions.”
When thinking about how to address a more uncertain future, the panel of experts spoke about the need to integrate infrastructure and establish public-private partnerships.
“We have an opportunity to harmonize the timing of our infrastructure replacements,” said Hunka. “As we move forward, it’ll be important for all of us to clearly communicate with one another and with our stakeholders.”
5 Key Takeaways
- We are set for success. As our history and experience has shown, we are well positioned to address inevitable challenges that come with growth.
- We are modernizing our processes. Outdated and incongruent policies, regulations, and standards may create challenges and barriers unless rectified.
- We are at the heart of innovation. There are currently numerous investments being made into innovative technologies and processes by the utility companies.
- We are integrating. Our utility companies work well together but there is an opportunity for greater strategic alignment in upgrading infrastructure – particularly in terms of timing.
- We are working towards shared outcomes. Clear and timely conversations between utility companies and industry are key in achieving mutually beneficial outcomes.