EcDev Journal

The Mayors’ Megawatt Challenge

Posted on Wednesday December 17, 2003

by Gillian Henderson

MUNICIPALITIES ACROSS THE GREATER TORONTO AREA are tackling energy efficiency in a whole new way. Through a program called the Mayors’ Megawatt Challenge, managers of municipal facilities are coming together to pool their knowledge and experience to solve some of the issues they face when it comes to making their buildings more energy efficient.


The Mayors’ Megawatt Challenge program has been developed by Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA) through their Living City Centre initiative. The TRCA was founded in 1957 to conserve and manage the area’s natural resources. One of its key objectives is to foster sustainable practices within the communities of the greater Toronto region, which led to the founding of The Living City Centre. Through research, demonstration, education, advocacy, training, promotion and partnership, The Living City Centre implements a number of innovative projects in the community that focus on identifying measurable objectives and achieving demonstrable results. 

The Mayors’ Megawatt Challenge is one of these projects. Recognizing that governments at all levels have participated in programs and policies aimed at improving energy efficiency in public sector facilities with great success, buildings continue to be major consumers of energy, water and materials, both in the public and private sectors. The Mayors’ Megawatt Challenge aims to bring people together to reduce some of the energy consumed by buildings, starting with municipalities.


Municipalities in the Challenge are taking part in four workshops over the course of nine months that use peer learning to focus on building performance, retrofits and energy efficiency opportunities for high priority facilities. Workshop facilitators and leading industry experts work with the municipalities to develop specific plans of action for each municipality, drawing upon collective knowledge and experience. 

An on-line information system provides municipalities with data and reports that provide comprehensible building and energy systems information from their utility data. From this, participants are able to track energy costs, as well as actual energy and emissions savings. The information system also benchmarks the performance of individual facilities against similar facilities from other municipalities, taking into account age, square footage, usage and other factors. This allows participants to evaluate the efficiency of their facilities against similar facilities and, when they make improvements, to see the results quickly and easily. 

Costs for the Mayors’ Megawatt Challenge are shared between the participants and NRCan’s Office of Energy Efficiency. The TRCA is also working with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) to facilitate access to additional funding and loans for feasibility studies and capital improvements. 


The Mayors’ Megawatt Challenge provides a wide range of benefits, even beyond the betterment of municipal facilities. The Challenge will not only reduce the municipal operating costs and improve their facilities but it will also provide the means for municipalities to get to know one another and continue to support each other and work together. Reducing energy use will also benefit the community by providing work for local contractors and suppliers, along with the environmental benefits of using cleaner technologies and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

To date, interest in the program has been high. Invitations to participate in the program were extended to all municipalities in the greater Toronto area, which included twenty-six municipalities. Thirteen municipalities attended the inaugural workshop held on October 20th, 2003. Of those, twelve have fully committed to the Challenge, with ongoing interest expressed by others who were unable to attend. 

The Mayor’s Megawatt Challenge is raising the profile of participating municipalities, allowing them to showcase their work in reducing energy consumption. Once the mayors have successfully achieved their one megawatt goal, the challenge will be extended to other sectors interested in taking similar collaborative action to lower energy use and costs.


Gillian Henderson is a Principal with Enerlife Consulting managing process design, communications, and awareness and training elements of energy and sustainability projects. She is the project manager for the Living City Centre development at Kortright. Gillian holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts from Queens University and a Masters in Business Administration from University College Smurfit Business School in Dublin, Ireland.