Innovative Projects

Financial support of $4.8 million to create a net-zero district energy system

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A model ecodistrict from every angle

Transforming a former contaminated industrial zone into a sustainable living environment that’s a model of environmental, energy, social and economic development: such was the daunting challenge taken on by two visionary real estate developers, Jeff Westeinde and Scott Demark. With Zibi—a net-zero ecodistrict currently in the making in Gatineau and Ottawa, on a site that straddles the Québec and Ontario shores of the Outaouais (Ottawa River)—they’re about to reach their goal: that of building the most sustainable community in Canada. The project is the country’s first to obtain the world-class One Planet Living certification, and just the second in North America.

At the heart of this forward-looking ecodistrict is an innovative energy strategy that focuses on recovering industrial waste heat from the nearby Kruger paper plant: a 100% carbon-neutral approach that will use but a fraction of the energy typically needed for a community of this size.

The Zibi development by 2030: A few key figures for the portion of the project located in Québec

2.5 million square feet

5,000 residents

200 affordable rental units

6,000 jobs

$4.8 million financial support from Hydro‑Québec

21.9 GWh annual electricity savings

Heating and cooling sourced directly onsite

Quand Jeff Westeinde et Scott Demark lui ont présenté leur projet, Hydro‑Québec y a tout de suite vu un potentiel important d’économies d’électricité. Plus encore, elle y a vu l’occasion de soutenir un projet voué à faire des petits. Par son caractère novateur, son recours à des technologies d’avant-garde en matière énergétique, sa capacité à réduire la dépendance du Québec aux énergies fossiles, Zibi se qualifiait entièrement pour un appui financier dans le cadre du programme le plus généreux d’Hydro‑Québec : Projets innovative projects.

« Zibi is the first project supported by Hydro‑Québec to harvest industrial waste heat in an energy loop. Hydro‑Québec provided support to Zibi through its Innovative Projects Program, which offers incentives to develop high-performance, energy-efficient real estate projects that harness innovative technologies. It’s Hydro‑Québec’s most generous program. »

— Virginie Laforest, Account Representative

What really makes the project stand out is the Zibi Community Utility (ZCU) District Energy System: an independent system based on a heat recovery/energy loop concept that sets a new benchmark in terms of efficiency, demand response and carbon neutrality. Essentially, the energy needed for building heating and cooling is already there. There’s no need to generate it; rather, it’s a matter of knowing where to find it, then recovering and distributing it. This is where advanced technology comes into play.

The principle is simple. In winter, the heated water released by industrial processes at the nearby Kruger pulp and paper plant travels through a network of pipes to reach the ZCU Central Plant, a thermal generating station. This valuable source of heat that, until now, had simply been lost is now recovered and compressed, then injected into the district’s heating system and distributed to its buildings. In summer, the coolness needed for air-conditioning is sourced from the river’s water.

A crucial partnership

Doter le quartier de telles installations requiert des technologies de pointe et nécessite des investissements majeurs. Pour les promoteurs, l'appui financier de 4,8 M$ versé par Hydro‑Québec par l'entremise du programme Innovative Projects Program was instrumental in letting Zibi pioneer a leading-edge approach to power supply and management.

« Having Hydro‑Québec on board from such an early stage gave our green energy initiative major credibility. It would have been impossible to achieve our aims without Hydro‑Québec’s backing and its $4.8 million in financial support. We’re on the same page as Hydro‑Québec in terms of being part of the energy transition and taking concrete steps to help our planet. »

— Jeff Westeinde, President, Zibi Canada

Energy savings

Leveraging two energy sources so abundantly present in its immediate vicinity will net Zibi huge energy savings. Indeed, the savings forecast for the project’s Québec component alone are an estimated 21.9 gigawatthours (GWh)—about the annual energy consumption of 1,000 households.

The energy loop: A circular approach to power management

More and more buildings are being heated and cooled through district energy systems that operate based on energy loops, an approach that consists of sharing heating and cooling between multiple buildings.

Planning an energy loop requires all stakeholders to work together closely from the very start. Here, the mix of uses is a strength. In Zibi’s case, just as the cold water pulled from the river serves to cool interiors in summer, the heat released by the Kruger plant is used to warm buildings in winter, thus turning an erstwhile waste product into a valuable community resource.

About Zibi

Zibi is a unique real estate development spanning the Ottawa and Gatineau sides of the Outaouais (Ottawa River). Aiming to be Canada’s first carbon-neutral community, Zibi is the first ecodistrict to be built based on the One Planet Living framework. This framework emphasizes the social, environmental and economic dimensions of sustainable development through ten principles that include promoting active and social lifestyles, creating living environments conducive to health and happiness, and protecting the environment.

Residential spaces (including affordable rental units), local shops and services, parks and green spaces, waterfront access, quality landscaping, heritage enhancement, sustainable and active mobility, and consistent Indigenous community input: all of these reflect the developers’ concern to build a human-scale living environment that promotes its occupants’ happiness and well-being.

About Hydro‑Québec’s Innovative Projects Program

Hydro‑Québec’s Innovative Projects Program promotes the development of high-performance, energy-efficient real estate projects. Attractive incentives allow real estate developers and construction companies to benefit from substantial funding as they take concrete steps to decarbonize Québec. It’s Hydro‑Québec’s most generous financial assistance program for its business customers.

Through the program, participating companies can obtain grants of up to $8 million, calculated based on the energy savings generated by the efficiency measures implemented. It’s a unique opportunity to receive substantial financial assistance for carrying out ambitious projects.

Recognizing the vital role of energy efficiency expertise, the Innovative Projects Program also encourages the contribution of consulting engineering firms to maximize energy savings and optimize project performance.

Find out more about the eligibility criteria and advantages of the Innovative Projects Program.

Looking to develop an innovative, high-performance, energy-efficient real estate project?

The Innovative Projects Program could provide you with up to $8 million in financial assistance.

See the eligibility criteria

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