AirdrieZero community organization facilitating decarbonizing Airdrie community by 2042


AirdrieZero - Initiating, facilitating, coordinating cost-lowering Net-Zero-2042 actions for residents and businesses in Airdrie, AB, Canada

net-zero-2050: refers to GHG greenhouse gas emissions being reduced to effectively zero by year 2050, as part of worldwide effort to stabilize climate change to  less than 2C degrees over pre-industrial levels. UN recommends advanced economies decarbonize by 2040 or close to it. That means us.

actions: complementary programs, protocols, projects

complementary: going beyond current and anticipated federal/provincial and municipal policies to help reduce costs of decarbonization, primarily with information campaigns

cost of decarbonization:  1) capital investment 2) asset stranding

asset stranding: capital equipment -appliances, vehicles, machinery, buildings- business and lifestyle arrangements and education and training that must be abandoned before normal end-of-life due to being un-affordable to operate or against regulations

Our proposed low-cost information campaigns:

Replacement Mandates

Governments can mandate what type of new equipment is available for sale in their territory, for example by banning the sale of fossil fuel combustion equipment. Since it doesn't affect existing equipment in use, there's no asset-stranding cost. While not as efficient as carbon pricing, and covering only a limited number of equipment categories, it has an advantage over gently ramped carbon pricing: earlier impact on emissions reduction.

Technology Transition

Carbon Price

Economists here and around the world agree broad based carbon pricing -like carbon tax/levy/fee or cap&trade/ETS exchange trading system- is effective and the most efficient/cheapest way to accelerate decarbonization of the economy, as measured in $/tonne CO2e abated or %GDP.  Other ways -narrow base (industry only) pricing, direct regulation, and incentives generally cost more for less due to inflexibility, overlaps, and incentives inefficiently going toward non-additionalities (would have happened 'anyways').






To meet our current federal NDC nationally determined contribution to Paris Agreement we will need a carbon price in the range of $100 to $200/tonne by 2030:

Escalating NDC?

UNFCCC as of 2019 all countries NDCs add up to 2C to 4C of climate change by year 2100 (too much), so countries need to anti-up with more ambitious goals.  2021 is the planned year for new goals/NDCs at COP26 in Scotland. We don't know yet if Canada will commit to more ambitious targets. Minister of Environment and Climate Change Wilkinson seemed to imply a connection between increased ambition and a resolution to Article 6 ITMO trading.

Changes in our emission trajectory / emissions reduction progress is a function of several variables:


Technology as an intensity-reducing factor - early adopters may go green as a hobby, for curiosity/to experiment, for bragging rights or because its the right thing to do, even if at net cost. Mainstream adopters -the majority- compare costs of alternatives, and choose the cheapest.  Fossil fuel technologies have been developed over several decades and any new technology would need to compete with fossil fuel technology. Carbon pricing can raise the price of fossil fuels to give lower emission technology a price advantage and trigger fuel switching. Signalling in advance the carbon price will continue rising and/or committing to hard targets like net-zero-2050 encourages investors to scale existing promising low emissions technology through research and development to achieve better economies of scale.

Q. As a mainstream citizen, what numbers do I put in my spreadsheet for future prices of carbon in each year?

Enacted legislation (federal benchmark): 2020 $30/tonne,  2021 $40/tonne,  2022 $50/tonne and as of Dec 2020, the price will rise $15/year from 2022 to $170/tonne 2030. There is a moderately high likelihood the carbon price will continue to escalate from 2030 to 2050 in order to reach net zero emissions in 2050, and our guestimate is 320 by 2030 and 470 in 2050.

Some factors that may lower escalating carbon pricing: public resistance based on confusion or misinformation, struggles with leakage or uncertainty over trading partners adoption of equivalent stringency so as not to cause leakage of emissions/economic-activity to lax jurisdictions, public resistance in provinces where revenues aren't recycled broadly enough through tax cuts and/or rebates, concern for homeless and those who don't file taxes and so don't have ways to get rebates, unforeseen breakthrough in Article 6 ITMO trading that reduces domestic cost of decarbonizing substantially, unforeseen technology breakthroughs or economy-wide feedback loops encouraging faster decarbonization, complementary programs with currently uncertain rollout or abatement effects: CFS clean fuel standard, EV subsidies, interest subsidies for clean home renovations, or variations of other (more expensive) non-carbon-pricing proposals, increases in international carbon pricing coverage and stringency allowing domestic EITE -emissions intensive trade exposed- industry free allocations to be reduced/tightened faster to expedite industrial decarbonization. 

Some factors that may increase escalating carbon pricing: early confirmation of economic simulation studies which show 1.5C/net-zero-2050 pathways still exist at low cost /-net zero cost or less than 1% GDP [Jacobson 2019, EWG+LUT 2019 , Energy Transitions 2018], slow progress on NDC, increased NDC, broader public confidence in carbon pricing and revenue recycling regimes, international agreements to increase carbon pricing, similar simultaneous uncoordinated carbon pricing initiatives by major trading partners,  Carbon Clubs (Nordhaus), and/or BCA/CBA border carbon adjustments to protect/mitigate against leakage of domestic industry, allowing faster carbon price escalation.

A problem with waiting for official government regulation/signaling: fossil-fuel-using equipment you buy today may become a 'stranded asset' if/as carbon prices increase and you abandon it part way through its lifespan due to it becoming unaffordable to operate. Asset stranding is a major cost to an economy doing rapid decarbonization, and can be reduced by starting early, signaling ahead (governments saying what future carbon prices will be), and working gradually/step-wise to decarbonize. For example you would normally wait till your hot water heater is at end of life, then do a calculation to see what best to replace it with, and make a step-wise change to your carbon footprint during equipment turnover. Depending on the type of equipment/appliance and its expected lifespan, there may only be a few turnovers between now and 2050, so making a future-proof decision on each turnover can save you from asset stranding costs in the long run.

Big emitter industries have people working on guestimating the future price on GHG emissions based on above mentioned factors, so they can minimize their asset stranding.  But what about mainstream citizens?

Below we've summarized our felt best guestimate/projection/anticipation of future carbon prices, in a table and charts, with the idea that the median is the value mainstream citizens will typically use in a spreadsheet when comparing TCO total cost of ownership or NPV net present value of two or more alternatives. We apologize in advance for being wrong -- we just don't know in which direction or to what magnitude we will be wrong. Monitor for updates - the last-update date is in the upper-left of the table.

GHG content of fuels


Carbon Budget

We don't have an estimate of Airdrie's emissions today. A look at national emissions and how they relate to a carbon budget can give an idea of what a municipal carbon budget can look like.

A study showed a global budget from 2020 of 440 GT (giga tonne) globally for a 50/50 chance of staying under 1.5C.

A fair share for Canada? 

a) based on % of current global emissions 1.6% x 440 GT = 7 GT

b) based on % of world population 37 M / 7.8 B  x 440GT = 2.1 GT

c) split difference of a) and b) (7 + 2.1)/2 = 4.55 GT


Likely Future

Energy Carrier

Electricity Generation Mix

In order of likelihood based on early guestimates of economic viability in AB:

CarbonNeutral Pathways for the United States, Williams et al 2021 

Energy Reports — RethinkX   - 5x overcapacity in renewables + short term storage + demand response

Mark Jacobson, book: "100% Clean, Renewable Energy and Storage for Everything", 2020, paperback, kindle

NARIS North American Renewable Integration Study - continental grid interties for high renewable electricity

A problem with 5x overcapacity in renewables: little incentive for private sector to invest in more-of-the-same renewables beyond full capacity: will be curtailed when sun shining and wind blowing, and won't generate when wind and sun not blowing and shining

generally nuclear expected to play a role in long run but not as big a role as renewables

with high capex and medium opex, does not complement renewables well: when auction bid due to medium opex puts it below renewables on the dispatch order of merit, it will be forced to idle, returing no revenue to support high investment / capex

Demand Side

To the extent VRE variable renewable energy dominates generation in Alberta, there will be a need for storage and DR demand response, also called demand flexibility. That's where an electricity customer shifts (or sheds) a load to a time of greater electricity supply / lower electricity demand. This avoids brownouts and rotating blackouts, and avoids thunking to dispatchable fossil fuel generation during supply shortages. Demand responders can include industrial, commercial and residential customers. TOU Time Of Use pricing may incentivize demand response, and/or regulations may require installing automated demand response equipment.

Voter Actions

Vote to stop climate change. Politicians will respond with policies to do that.

But make it clear you don't expect pampering. In the past, voters expected a solution to climate change -- just nothing that affected or inconvenienced them personally. Which is impossible. That's why governments kicked-the-can for 4 decades. That's why it's important to clearly signal to politicians a change in voter willingness to accept some inconvenience, some impacts, to finish the job of decarbonizing the economy expeditiously.  In the short run -over next 2 decades- the cost of electricity will likely increase as new electrical infrastructure is amortized. But in the longer run after decarbonizing we will be using less energy overall thanks to electricity's efficiency, and will be spending a smaller % GDP on energy -- we'll be saving money.

And climate damages have a bigger drag on the economy than decarbonizing: Cost of climate damages 7.5% GDP,  cost to decarbonize 3.5% GDP. Net benefit of world decarbonizing  7.5 - 3.5 = 4% GDP.

Climate Damages: US EPA SCGHG USD 208/tonne 2024 x 40 Gt/year = 8T/year in climate damages. In a 109T/year economy that's 7.5% of global GDP. 

Commuter Actions

Airdrie is known as a commuter city and those commuting long distances by fossil fuel powered personal vehicle on a regular basis will find the carbon price and trickle-down cost of coming CFS Clean Fuel Standard will impact their transportation budget. A few strategies:

Home Owner Actions

In general, if appliances last 15 years, then there are at most 2 replacement cycles between 2020 and 2050. 

The worse thing that could happen: your furnace or water heater breaks down, and you are in such a hurry to replace it that you have no time to consider electrifying. That could lead to much higher lifecycle costs as the carbon price continues to ramp up - currently scheduled for $170/tonne-GHG ($8.55/GJ natgas) by 2030 and not unlikely to be triple that by 2050.  General questions about heat pumps

Much better: prepare so when your furnace or hot water heater goes, you're ready to electrify.

0. Prepare a calculation comparing the cost and value delivered of natgas vs heat pump replacements

Here's an approximation for furnace replacement

Fuel switching year when:

When to replace furnace with Heat Pump

Heat pumps cost more than furnaces. Possible offsets to the extra cost: 

4. Optionally opt in to clean electricity through your electricity retailer, currently priced a few cents per kwh over regular grid electricity, this will help spur renewable buildout.

5. apply passive cooling and energy saving which can increase resale value

6. measure real-time energy use with wireless natgas meter reader, electrical panel reader and apps. There's evidence homeowners use less energy when they are aware of detailed use.

Grocery Shopper Actions

check food substitution to get lower upstream emissions

- ecoSwitch for finding alternate groceries with lower emissions

Appliance Shopper Actions

Monitor the news for futuristic capabilities such as 'demand response' - appliances --including vehicle to house/vehicle to grid V2H/V2G-- that can choose when to run based on things like time-of-use electricity pricing (which may be coming to Alberta consumers)

Home Renovation Contractor Actions

Organize into an ecosystem of inter-referrals to ensure home owners are aware of and aligned with a zero emission building future. There are only 3 decades to zero emissions 2050, and assuming renovations and appliance replacements occur every 15 years, there are at most 2 cycles left before 2050. Carbon price is currently scheduled for $8.50/GJ natgas in 2030 and not unlikely to continue rising after.  Ecosystem parties:

Post Secondary Student Actions

Look for optional courses on climate change  

Fireplace Installer Actions

Green NGOs

Develop a single central NGO to cover / accumulate all green / decarbonization interests and advice

x too many groups can dilute coalition, make it harder for stakeholder consultations

HVAC Contractor Actions

New Home Buyer Actions

Ask homebuilders for net-zero-ready standards and features.  Most homebuilders can do it, but its not yet part of code, and they are in tight price competition, so they tend to spend their sales time / effort on kitchen styles. Net Zero Ready should include

Resale Home Buyer Actions

Realtor Actions

New Home Builder Actions

MURB / Condo board and Commercial Building Actions

AUC Alberta Utilities Commission and Electrical Utilities and Retailers Actions

Challenge: encourage electrification while decarbonizing grid power. 

Grocery Store / Supermarket Actions

Transition to Kigali Amendment compliant refrigerants

For example CO2

Cement Industry Actions

Prepare to abate both fuel and process emissions, if/when/as free allocations are reduced/removed 

Municipal Actions

MEED snapshot July 2021 for Airdrie. 

SSG & whatIf? Technologies. Municipal Energy and Emissions Database. 2021. Available online at:  

Provincial Actions

Federal Actions

Greener Homes Grant Program

Carbon Pricing

BCA border carbon adjustments

NZAB Actions

NZAB - Net Zero Advisory Body

In the context of its assigned role and mandate, acknowledge:

Considering the dynamic nature, and the larger context of ambition, NZAB shouldn't be setting a carbon budget cast in stone, but rather an updatable, ambition-tunable framework with snapshot values and trajectories. See DNV PNZ Pathway to Net Zero which shows trajectories.

CUSMA / USMCA / NAFTA 2.0 Trading Block Actions

Major World Trading Block Actions

Concerned Citizen Volunteer Actions

1. what are you good at, resources, networks

2. What needs doing (heat pumps, insulation, explaining, policy mechanism design..)

3. What brings you joy - pick something you like doing because there’s lots to do, and you need to be in it for the long haul.

- find something that meets all 3 of those.

    Framing Climate Change: Exploring the Role of Emotion in Generating Advocacy Behavior

Employer Actions

Federal / Provincial Harmonized Actions