City plan for more electric car charging stations could cost you

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People in Ottawa could soon be paying more to charge their electric vehicles at city-run charging stations. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Proposal likely to mean price differences between stations across city

By Kimberley Molina, CBC News

The city's plan to build more charging stations could make it more expensive for people to charge their electric vehicles.

The City of Ottawa wants to start charging people to charge cars at stations installed after December 2017.

Currently, the city operates three free charging stations at John G. Mlacak Community Centre, City Hall and the Glebe Parking Garage. It also operates a pay station at the Goulbourn Recreation Complex.

There are also many more privately operated stations and some installed through a provincial program, all with varying rates.

"In a sense, there's a bit of a hodgepodge until now of different unpredictable availability, free, not free, different rates," said Coun. David Chernuskenko, chair of the Environment and Climate Protection Committee. But that hodgepodge will likely continue.

The proposal being presented at Tuesday's Environment and Climate Protection Committee would see the city build more charging stations, but with different rates than what it currently charges.

Variable prices have some concerned

The variable pricing will be tied to the 'level' of charge your vehicle takes. So called Level 1 stations, at 120 volts, are currently free and will remain free.

Level 2 stations, which operate at 240 volts, will have a $3.50 flat fee at future Park and Ride parking lots and $2.00 per hour at other city sites. The third level of charge is the DC Fast Charger station. The city would charge 28 cents per minute at these stations, which connect directly to the car's battery and essentially super charge it in as little as 30 minutes.

Students win $5,000 at first Innovation Jam

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Photo by Meagan Casalino

Manuela Barcenas, The Charlatan

A group of nine students won $5,000 after pitching their “Complete Compost” idea at Ottawa’s first sustainability challenge Innovation Jam, held at Carleton on Nov. 9.

The event was organized by Student Energy Carleton (SEC), the first Ontario chapter of an international organization that aims to develop sustainable energy alternatives to fossil fuels and foster innovation among university students.

According to Roberto Chavez, SEC president, the idea of an Innovation Jam originated from an executive trip to Mexico to attend the Student Energy Summit in June.

“We saw an Innovation Jam, and we thought ‘this is the coolest thing, this is what we are about.’ So we thought that the best way to start our year was to have one of these events where students can learn actively by taking action,” Chavez said.

Eleven groups pitched their ideas in front of a panel of five experts in the fields of sustainability and environmental protection. Cameron Wales, Carly Parks, Kokeb Solomon, Jackie Bastianon, Kaylin Paquette, Julia Sterling, Natalie York, Jeff Thorslund, and David Hodgson made up the winning “Complete Compost” team.

“The goal is a cheap, accessible, purpose built green bin that will contain smells and prevent pests. If a pilot project at Carleton is successful, we want to see this city-wide,” Wales, a fourth-year student in public administration and policy management, said.

Wales’ team got a $5,000 sponsorship from the Social Planning Council of Ottawa to develop their idea, as well as the opportunity to present their plan to the City of Ottawa Environment and Climate Protection Committee.

“A lot of game-changing, society-changing ideas started on campuses, and whether it’s something that we hear that will lead to a major change, or just getting people thinking this way that will lead to a career or research further down the road, getting people thinking is good,” said David Chernushenko, the Committee Chair and city councillor, who gave the opening remarks at the event.

App tells Ottawa residents what kind of trash to put at the curb

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The city has launched an app to tell people what kind of trash — blue box, black box, green bin and residual waste — is being collected each week.Chris Mikula / The Ottawa Citizen

Jon Willing, Ottawa Sun

Determined to make recycling easier for residents, the City of Ottawa has launched an app that simply tells people what type of trash to put at their curbs each week.

Coun. David Chernushenko, chair of council’s environment and climate protection committee, called it the “one-stop shop” for garbage.

The app, which is called Ottawa Collection Calendar, was produced by ReCollect Systems and is available on Apple and Android devices.

It’s hard to say if an app will boost the city’s waste diversion rate.

The information is already on the city’s website, which includes a calendar that tells people what kind of garbage is being picked up on their collection days. Plus, there’s at least one app already created by a developer using city open data on the collection schedules.

Chernushenko said the city needs to “check off the ‘easy’ box” in helping people navigate the collection schedule.

The city suddenly has a heightened focus on garbage programs, particularly after community group Waste Watch Ottawa discovered the city’s diversion rate was low compared to other Ontario cities and regions.

Just as concerning, only about half of Ottawa residents are using their green bins to divert organic waste.

An app won’t help people figure out when to put out their green bins since the city empties the containers each week. The app will, however, help people figure out when to put out their trash cans, blue boxes and black boxes since those pickups are biweekly.

The city also has an opportunity to push more waste-related messages to residents through the app. For example, a message currently on the app tells people there’s a hazardous waste depot on Saturday at the Barrhaven snow dump on Strandherd at Kennevale drives.

Chernushenko was surprised to learn only about 66,000 people had signed up for a reminder service through the city’s website. He hopes the new app will give people another option to keep tabs on the collection schedule, rather than looking down the street to see what bins neighbours are putting out.

According to the city, there was no additional cost for the app since it was created under an existing service agreement with ReCollect Systems.

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Green Bin program's 'yuck factor' still bedevils city hall

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Jon Willing, Ottawa Citizen

The city is trapped in a green bin of confusion, not knowing how to get more people to scrape the guck from their plates into a bucket instead of a trash can.

After being shamed by Waste Watch Ottawa into addressing a ho-hum diversion rate, council’s environment committee on Tuesday held a question-and-answer session with staff about recycling and green bins.

The city is still having trouble helping people conquer their fear of the “yuck factor” in separating gooey organics from dry garbage, according to Kevin Wylie, the general manager of public works and environmental services.

Allowing people to use plastic bags, instead of only paper products, has been billed as one possible solution to increase the usage rate, but the city is still duking it out with Orgaworld over the 20-year green bin contract signed in 2008.

The legal tussle between the city and Orgaworld is over leaf and yard waste, but it’s getting in the way of other potential initiatives, such as using plastic bags.

“It boggles the mind that with an arbitrator ruling that essentially said the city was in the right that we’d be still here years later,” said Coun. David Chernushenko, chair of the environment committee.

“I’ll be blunt. It sucks.”

In 2014, the city’s auditor general exposed the poor planning leading up to the green bin contract. Taxpayers have been shelling out more money than necessary to process residential organics.

About 51 per cent of residents are using green bins for organic waste.

Chernushenko accepts that more people might find it easier to use the green bin if plastic bags were allowed, but he doesn’t believe it’s the only answer to improving usage rates.