Oxford County got a chance to compare notes with 15 other communities at a Sustainable Cities dialogue in San Francisco last week.
Strategic initiative manager Jay Heaman travelled with Woodstock Mayor Trevor Birtch as Oxford's representatives to the conference, which included cities and municipalities from all over the U.S. and Canada working on green initiatives.
Heaman described the conference as a meet and greet with other municipalities striving for the same 100 per cent renewable goal as Oxford.
"The biggest lesson learned is that there is a lot of momentum globally and in the U.S. on this front now," he said. "There seems to be so much concern surrounding climate change and the reliance on fossil fuel."
Heaman said the Oxford reps learned green technology is evolving so rapidly that, collectively, we're not keeping pace with the rate of change.
"The technology is improving, but the costs are coming down really quickly -to the point that, in a lot of jurisdictions, it's actually more cost-effective to generate from renewable energy than it is to transport distances from outside of a jurisdiction," Heaman added.
The amount of money that can be kept within a municipality when people generate their own energy was something else Heaman took away from the conference. When municipalities aren't forced to import from overseas or down a transmission line, there are savings being made, he said.
"There's a need to really work together on a lot of these initiatives, because they're so new and there's a lot of lobbying against renewable energy," Heaman said. "At the same time, there's a lot of lobbying being done for the reduction of carbon emissions. So you have a bit of a tug-of-war going on that we're kind of right in the middle of."
Heaman said he hasn't noticed much push back against renewable energy initiatives in Oxford County, but added they haven't "hit the ground with a lot of the implemented programs or demonstration projects yet."
"I've been following this for a longtime," he added, "and I do get a sense that a lot of people are much more willing and open minded at this point."
It's going to be important for the county to keep looking outside of its own borders to look at different ways to expand into renewable energy, Heaman continued, because of how new and rapidly expanding the renewable industry has become.
"You almost can't keep up with it if you don't network," he said.
Following the conference, which including Vancouver, San Diego, Calif., and Cleveland, Ohio, to name a few.
Heaman said the most promising impression he took away from the conference is that Oxford is on the right track.
"We had the opportunity to meet with San Francisco Zero Waste and during that meeting it became evident -of course their system is a little bit more developed than ours -but we're very much in line with the thinking that they have," he said. "Sometimes it's just a matter of hearing that you're on the right track."