Evaluating energy integration in rural Manitoba development plans
The Government of Canada has committed to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Achieving net-zero will require a significant reduction in fossil fuel consumption, but the land-use and built form of North American communities is fundamentally linked to fossil fuel energy systems. This is especially true in rural communities where low-densities, long distances between destinations, and the dominance of primary industries increases energy consumption. As a result, over 60% of Canada’s emissions are associated with buildings and transportation.
Given this linkage between planning and energy, planning has a key role to play in emissions reductions and the transition to renewable energy. While the majority of Canadians reside in urban centers, approximately 20% of the national population remain in small town and rural contexts. Existing land-use planning frameworks do not allow for the integration of energy, and the role of energy transitions and land-use planning in rural areas is understudied. For all communities to see the benefits of net-zero and reduced emissions, it is critical that rural and small communities are included. To develop equitable energy transitions, research that is inclusive of small and rural communities is needed.
This goal of this research is to identify the barriers to integrating land-use planning and energy planning that are preventing rural Manitoba rural municipalities from achieving a low-carbon energy transition. Specifically, if issues of political will and values, or lack of capacity are the primary barrier to integration. The objectives of this research are:

  1. Develop a systematic plan quality evaluation framework to assess the inclusion of energy planning in rural municipal development plans.
  2. Explore why municipal planners decided to pursue, or not pursue, energy considerations within development plans.
  3. Identify success factors and barriers to the integration of energy planning into rural land-use planning frameworks.
Findings from this research will enable municipal governments to plan for and include clean energy technology within their communities in a mutually beneficial and well-planned manner. Results will also assist in guiding provincial decision-makers and utility companies in better equipping and supporting municipalities to enable low-carbon energy. This research provides some of the first empirical evidence on how rural communities are preparing for energy transitions and net-zero in Canada. It is also one of the first plan evaluation studies focused solely on Manitoba, and one of a few academic studies to critically review Manitoba’s planning system. Ultimately, this research contributes critical knowledge on how to include rural communities in the global energy transition and to understanding why an implementation gap exists, and what can be done to address it.
For further information, please contact Leith.Deacon@uoguelph.ca