Catholic High School Achieves Carbon Neutrality

Principal Cassidy delivering remarks on November 2, 2021 at ribbon cutting ceremony. Source: Catholic News Service

John Paul II Secondary School in London, Ontario, is the first self-sufficient, carbon-neutral Canadian school. Using solar and geothermal energy for its power needs, the high school is pioneering energy efficiency and earning the admiration of many around the globe.

Over the last 2 years, the school installed 2,700 carport solar panels on the former parking lot allowing it to generate enough energy to power a battery system that provides heat, A/C and other forms of electricity.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions to near zero, the improvements are projected to remove an estimated 277 tons of carbon annually.

At a ribbon-cutting ceremony held November 2, 2021, Principal Peter Cassidy said, “There was will at the executive levels of the school board to engage in this project, and that’s really what allowed it to come about.”

The London District Catholic School Board provided half of the 9.7 million Canadian dollar (US$7.7 million) project, while the federal government contributed the remaining balance of CA$4.8 million.

“The fact that they were able to work cooperatively in what I think was a really sophisticated collaboration between a variety of government agencies, local power authorities and different energy partners was probably a difficult navigation, but they persisted,” said Cassidy.

Partnering with the renewable energy company Ameresco, Inc., the school began being retrofitted in 2019. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic had to undergo a series of delays.

Bob McCullough, president of Ameresco Canada said, “We are thrilled to continue our partnership with the London District Catholic School Board by collaborating on such a monumental project. Our work with JPII is a wonderful illustration of how a complex project, seemingly far beyond a facility’s budget, can be completed through flexible funding and adaptation. This sets the stage for how other educational institutions can implement infrastructures to achieve carbon-neutral goals in the future.”

The importance of a Catholic school being the first to reach carbon neutrality was not lost on Principal Cassidy who remarked, we’re putting “our money where our values are.”

“We often read the land acknowledgment at school, and we talk about the First Nations people, so I think we can learn a lot from them about stewardship as well,” he said. “This taking place during Treaties Recognition Week seemed like a pretty serendipitous thing. I think we’re trying to be consistent with our faith and our values, and this is representative of that.”

Source: Catholic News Service