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Squamish to develop MOU with Lonsdale Energy

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  The District of Squamish (DOS) approved a staff recommendation to develop a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Lonsdale Energy Corporation (LEC), the publicly owned North Vancouver utility that heads up that city's district energy program.

"The notion is simply to explore an MOU and bring it back to council," said deputy administrator Brent Leigh during Tuesday's strategy session.

The MOU aims to examine "the feasibility of creating a neighbourhood energy utility." The recommendation also called for a task team to propel related work. The team would be composed of one councillor, an external consultant and two staff members.

District or neighbourhood energy systems involve a system of pipes travelling between a cluster of buildings and carrying water heated by boilers, which use a variety of fuel options, from geothermal to gas. DOS has been steadily working towards introducing the systems for high-density developments about to come on stream, such as the Waterfront Landing or the new downtown.

Councillor Corinne Lonsdale flagged Leigh's interest in LEC, saying a host of other companies must be in operation that could provide similar services to DOS.

"You've singled out one specific company, and I need to understand why there isn't someone out there who could offer us something better?"

Leigh pointed to the nature of LEC's existence, favouring the publicly owned nature of the company, as well as its proximity to Squamish and expertise in the field.

"There are other companies that do what Lonsdale does," he said, "but only to a point."

Councillor Greg Gardner expressed concern over the idea of an MOU, saying such documents are usually the introductory gestures of a business transaction. Perhaps, he continued, the time is not right for such a relationship.

Backed up by DOS planner Sabina FooFat, who heads up the district's energy strategy, Leigh explained the essence of timing, especially given that the Waterfront Landing project is looking for a fall start up.

"I think there's an opportunity here," said Councillor Patricia Heintzman. "There's a window. There's a door open, and we should take it. Obviously, Waterfront Landing is the biggest development this town has ever seen. They're between third and fourth reading, and so if anything's going to happen, it's going to happen now."

LEC, she added, is the best choice given the timing.

Lonsdale remained unconvinced. In what seemed like an appeal to Heintzman, long a proponent of requiring the installation of water meters and low flush toilets, Lonsdale said the task team could split staff time at the expense of other projects. She mentioned metering specifically.

The recommendation was unanimously approved.

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