Canadian bank granting C$56M to fund University of Toronto’s CHP, Energy Efficiency makeover

July 25, 2022
Project LEAP will help the campus complete some retrofits such as replacing gas boilers in its central steam combined heat and power (CHP) plant with electric boilers; installing a supplemental steam turbine; and deploying renewables

Thanks to a C$56 million grant ($43.6M U.S.)  from the Canada Infrastructure Bank, the University of Toronto will launch a project to overhaul and update its energy system to reduce emissions.

Project LEAP will help the campus complete some deep energy retrofits such as replacing gas boilers in its central steam combined heat and power (CHP) plant (pictured) with electric boilers; installing a supplemental steam turbine; and deploying a local low carbon energy source for renewable energy supply, at its St. George campus.

Additionally, the university also intends to use the funds to carry out deep energy retrofits of two labs and the Earth Sciences Centre.

“Underneath our campus, we have one of Canada’s largest and oldest district energy systems.” Ron Saporta, chief operating officer, property services and sustainability at the University said. “It’s over 120 years old and it’s the primary contributor to a lot of our carbon emissions because it heats and powers up buildings. This project allows us to modernize that system and to start to migrate away from fossil fuels as the primary heating source. We can upgrade energy-intensive buildings to reduce the amount of carbon they emit.”

The retrofits will enable the campus to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by more than 50%, or 45,000 tons of CO2 equivalents, by the end of the decade.

The University of Toronto also plans to pilot green technology solutions such as carbon capture, utilization and a waste-to-fuel “digester” that would convert more than 500 kilograms of organic waste into fuel to heat buildings.

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Private sector partners will also fund this infrastructure-focused project, which complements the University’s research, teaching and innovation initiatives that aim to drive sustainability and support Canada’s efforts to attain net-zero GHG emissions by 2050 and transition to a green economy.

The financing, through CIB’s Public Retrofits Initiative, marks CIB’s first partnership with an academic institution and is expected to help the university save more than C$13 million over 25 years via lower interest rates on CIB-financed projects.

“We hope this is a call to action for others in the public institution space,” said Ehren Cory, CIB’s chief executive officer. “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.”

The University of Toronto partnership is the latest addition to CIB’s portfolio of more than 35 clean and connected infrastructure projects across Canada that the bank has funded, including C$2 billion to support energy efficient building retrofits.

The University has embarked a slew of projects to become a climate-positive institution, including its Low Carbon Action Plan, which was unveiled in 2019. As part of the plan, the University aimed to cut its GHG emissions by 37% by 2030 from its 1990 levels.

The University is also building an urban geoexchange system on the St. George campus. As part of the project, boreholes are being drilled deep into the ground to store surplus heat generated by nearby mechanical systems in the summer for use in the winter.

The system – installed alongside the University’s Landmark Project to make the St. George campus greener, more walkable, and more accessible – is estimated to reduce the University’s GHG emissions by 15,000 metric tons per year. Buildings around King’s College Circle will need to be retrofitted to take full advantage of this geoexchange system.

Canada Infrastructure Bank is a federal Crown Corporation that was established five years ago with investors such as BlackRock and Canadian pension funds. It has invested close to $7 billion so far with about $35 billion in total investment planned to bolster the nation's infrastructure and attract private capital.