Federal infrastructure bank could boost district energy projects | Edmonton

The new federal infrastructure bank might help Edmonton finance district energy projects being explored for downtown and Blatchford, Mayor Don Iveson says.

The Crown corporation is still being developed, but with $35-billion in federal government funding it’s intended to bring private money and pension fund capital into major revenue-generating projects.

Iveson was in Ottawa this week for meetings of the Big City Mayors caucus, which he chairs, and the annual Federation of Canadian Municipalities convention, which featured a speech by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

While Iveson is interested in the new financial organization, he’s still not sure how much Edmonton will be able to use it.

“That remains to be seen. The best part of the infrastructure bank is it’s optional. Municipalities will be able to choose whether it’s the best fit,” he said Saturday.

“The opportunities that we’re very interested in … are around our district energy projects, for example, and the opportunity to work through the bank to get preferential financing to help (them), either downtown or at Blatchford or perhaps bundled together.”

The city is looking at saving energy by sharing waste heat between downtown buildings, and also working on ideas for shared heating at the Blatchford development that could use warmth from the sewer system and shallow holes drilled under the stormwater lake.

The infrastructure bank might also be a source of money for selling technology developed at Enerkem Inc.’s garbage-to-fuel facility in the Edmonton Waste Management Centre, Iveson said.

While Trudeau told municipal leaders the bank will be a way to move projects ahead and grow the economy, he said that it’s intended to stretch money further and 90 per cent of the long-term federal infrastructure plan will be paid off with grants.

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One of Iveson’s concerns is the bank may focus on investments in huge projects, such as interprovincial power transmission lines, rather than smaller civic infrastructure investments.

“It’s new and may lead to some opportunities to partner in new and creative ways. I think that’s what the government is hoping for, but it’s still very early days. It’s fair to say we’re intrigued and want to work with the government find ways of helping municipalities.”

gkent@postmedia.com

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