York prof takes the lead on renewable energy proving that the future is now

Jose Etcheverry
Jose Etcheverry

Faculty of Environmental Studies Professor Jose Etcheverry is helping Oxford County realize an ambitious commitment that will see the region rely 100 per cent on renewable energy by the year 2025.

The commitment came out of a motion introduced by Trevor Birtch, mayor of the City of Woodstock, which was passed unanimously last month by Oxford County regional government. The success of the motion means that Oxford County becomes the first region in Ontario to commit to the 100 per cent renewable energy target. Playing a lead role in the project is Etcheverry, who co-chairs the Sustainable Energy Initiative (SEI) at York University.

The success of the motion propels Oxford County into a growing global contingent of municipalities moving to adopt renewable energy. “The campaign for achieving 100 per cent renewable energy is gaining international momentum because it is feasible and because it is a better option for communities: investment in renewable energy creates local jobs while promoting energy security and environmental protection,” says Etcheverry. “As we are seeing with cities around the world, it is possible to do well by doing good.”

Oxford County is home to some 109,000 residents. The lack of dependency on fossil fuels poses challenges for the county as it does for many other places internationally that are also attempting to make equal progress, says Etcheverry. Climate change research has shown that the implications of the continued use of fossil fuels has grave consequences. Many world leaders have made ambitious commitments to reduce or eliminate entirely the use of fossil fuels.

Etcheverry’s research focuses on developing practical policy solutions to climate change through collaborative efforts. He is particularly interested in strategies to develop all renewable energy sources to their full potential and in finding new ways to communicate effectively about solutions to climate change and energy problems. He has provided his opinion and expertise to ensure that the City of Woodstock and Oxford County initiative is effectively executed. He delivered a presentation to a community information event held in Woodstock in January. In May, he led a team of researchers, which included York students and international exchange students, on a tour of various energy initiatives across Oxford County.

One such project is the White Lanes microGrid Project launched by Woodstock Hydro. The project interconnects renewable energy, energy conservation, energy efficiency and storage with consumption into a reliable efficient system. It is a smart grid project.

“What amazed me most about Woodstock is the close connection between politicians, communities and private sector people have, a connection that you usually don’t get to see everywhere,” says Bastian Acevedo, an international FES exchange student. “In a fairly short period of time, they got everyone committed to making Woodstock a 100 per cent Renewable Energy City.”