Utilities Kingston recognizes that the context in which businesses now operate has been transformed by climate change, nature loss, social unrest around inclusion and working conditions, COVID-19 and changing expectations of the role of corporations.
To continue to thrive, companies around the world need to build their resilience and enhance their license to operate, through greater commitment to long-term, sustainable value creation that embraces the wider demands of people and planet.
Whether through protecting health and safety, caring for our planet, or taking action for social responsibility, this page outlines the myriad ways in which the employees of Utilities Kingston strive to meet these expectations, each and every day
Protecting our planet
Companies depend on and impact the natural environment in many ways, through their operations and supply chains and through the ways their products and services are used. To that end, utility companies manage the environmental impact of delivering energy—treating source water and managing wastewater—simultaneously relying on the natural environment for clean water and energy sources.
Environmental protection and compliance with Ontario legislation governing water quantity and quality, wastewater system effluent, energy conservation and greenhouse gas emissions is a mainstay of Utilities Kingston’s business.
Thus, we take steps to reduce the environmental impact of delivering multiple utility services and demonstrate a good understanding of and response to these effects.
Reducing waste and pollution
Ensuring freshwater availability
Access to water for drinking and sanitation is a basic human right. Our employees understand that keeping nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium cycles in balance is critical to the effective functioning of ecosystems, including Kingston’s drinking water source – Lake Ontario.
Thus, Utilities Kingston manages, operates and maintains a collection system for wastewater and, through the treatment process, converts it into a natural resource quality effluent that avoids harming the receiving environment.
In 2022, Utilities Kingston managed 35.8 million cubic metres of wastewater.
99.9 per cent of collected wastewater was released as natural resource quality water, while 0.1 per cent of sewage was released from overflows and bypasses.
Protecting the natural environment from sewer overflows
To protect the natural environment—including the flora and fauna that inhabit local waterways—and the health and safety of recreational water users, Utilities Kingston is concerned with reducing sewer overflows.
In partnership with the City of Kingston, we have set a 20-year target to separate 100 per cent of the combined sewers in the municipal sewer system, by 2043.
From system improvements to overflow monitoring and regular plant maintenance, we take action to prevent these sewer overflows from occurring. When overflows do occur, our staff respond quickly to reduce the impacts to the environment and properties.
By completing shoreline inspections, making the appropriate notifications to governing bodies and coordinating pump station shut-downs and environmental clean-ups, wastewater system operators help mitigate the impact of sewer spills into the environment.
Meanwhile, real-time sewer overflow monitoring and notification helps recreational water users make better informed decisions.
Sustainable consumption of resources
In the long run, sustainability requires companies around the world to achieve great levels of re-use (circularity) of non-renewable resources and sustainable consumption of renewable resources throughout our economies.
In 2022, Utilities Kingston:
Progressed on investigating the feasibility of an integrated biosolids and source-separated organics processing facility. Managing sludge and other organic wastes to produce renewable end products will reduce the overall greenhouse gas emissions from operations, helping Utilities Kingston and the City of Kingston to become carbon neutral by 2040.
Offset 50 per cent of natural gas needs at Ravensview Wastewater Treatment Plant using biogas from digested sludge, a by-product of wastewater treatment.
Offset 55 per cent of natural gas needs at Cataraqui Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant using biogas from digested sludge, a by-product of wastewater treatment.
Water and energy efficiency
Conservation programs, such as those highlighted below, help utility customers with water and energy efficiency, while preserving and protecting the environment.
For instance, water conservation extends the life of municipal infrastructure, accommodates for population growth, and reduces the cost of treating and pumping water and sewage.
Meanwhile, conservation is a clean and cost-effective way to increase electricity system capacity, while empowering customers to manage their electricity use and save money. It can extend the useful life of existing infrastructure and reduce the environmental impact of energy distribution.
By supporting our customers in making their homes more energy efficient and better manage their utility bills, we’re partnering to take climate action and reduce our community’s carbon footprint.
Our conservation achievements in 2022 are listed below.
Conservation projects save energy at treatment facilities
- 33,000 kWh saved annually, from operational changes at wastewater treatment plants
- 27,000 kWh saved annually, from lighting retrofits at water treatment plants
Water Conservation Garden promotes water-wise gardening practices
- 214 visitors educated on growing a sustainable garden that uses less treated water
Pollinator Workshop promotes organic management practices for local gardens
- 75 attendees learned how to increase the pollinators in their perennial garden
Smart thermostat rebate program helps save energy for home heating and cooling
- 60 customers received rebates on a smart thermostat, helping them save energy and money
Rain barrel program reduces treated water use
- 800 rain barrels sold, reducing treated water use and saving energy to pump and treat water
- This has the potential to conserve 176,000 litres of water annually
Retrofit programs improve water efficiency for residential and commercial customers
- $22,234 provided for customer retrofit upgrades that help manage water costs and improve water efficiency
- 29 residential toilet upgrades funded to help residential customers manage water consumption and sewer use
Taking climate action
Utilities Kingston shares the City of Kingston’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and remains its committed partner in being a climate action leader.
Conversely, energy and water systems are increasingly affected by extreme weather events due to climate change. Hence, utility companies around the globe must increase the pace, scale and scope of efforts to ensure safe and reliable water and energy delivery for the future.
Meanwhile, the province is projecting continued growth in Ontario's electricity demand across residential, commercial, industrial, and transportation sectors. Considering societal decarbonization goals, it will be critical for energy companies to pursue innovative opportunities like non-wire alternatives to help ensure the continued reliability of the provincial energy grid.
Utilities Kingston’s strategic plan for 2021-2025 details how we are managing assets for sustainability and climate action. We are also developing a Climate Action Leadership Plan by 2025, to identify the financial resources required to achieve carbon neutral operations by 2040.
We have taken steps to begin reducing GHG emissions from operations. For example, electricity savings from various projects undertaken at water and wastewater treatment plants are predicted to offset GHG emissions by 1,680 kg annually (see also, our Annual Report, 2022).
Meanwhile, federal, provincial and municipal agencies have shared their net zero targets for the 2030-2050 timeframe and suggested that the most likely way of achieving these targets is through electrification of heating and transportation. That’s because Ontario has a clean electricity grid with a range of diverse resources, including hydro, nuclear, natural gas and renewables.
To better understand the potential impact of electrification on the local Kingston Hydro distribution system, the provincial transmission system and the provincial electricity market managed by the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), Utilities Kingston developed a preliminary electrification plan with the help of larger customers and shared it with its industry partners as part of the regional planning process. The Regional Infrastructure Planning report (second cycle) was completed in May 2022.
What is the role of natural gas in the energy transition?
Utilities Kingston is an active participate in Ontario’s energy transition, and we are committed to reducing GHG emissions from operations. Most energy and industry analysts agree that Ontario will continue to require natural gas, both for home heating and for energy generation, during the energy transition process. We continue our commitment to providing safe and reliable natural gas services in our community
Utilities Kingston operates in a connected world in which society is increasingly committed to the values of responsible business, sustainable economic development and long-term value creation.
We embrace human rights, by fostering a diverse, inclusive workplace with equal pay for work of equal value and by offering employees the opportunity to thrive and grow.
People are crucial to every facet of our organization, representing workers, customers, suppliers, contractors and our Shareholder. Their growth – in knowledge, prosperity and well-being – is central to the success of our organization and society.
From reducing hardship and inequalities, to ensuring safety, good health and well-being of both the public and employees, and offering quality training and skills development for employees, Utilities Kingston is committed to and welcomes all people.
Skills for the future
Utilities Kingston recognizes that access to skilled workers is a key factor in a successful company and equipping people with the skills they need to innovate helps to create jobs and prosperity.
67 per cent of employees are licensed tradespeople, licensed water/wastewater operators, or hold a professional designation (2022 figures).
Health and safety
We care for the health, wellness and safety of our employees and contractors, as well as the health and safety of the public; upholding their rights to physical and mental well-being.
From strengthening relationships to sharing information with customers and suppliers, we have developed a strong culture of health and safety excellence. We employ both field workers—who work in a construction setting with more inherent risks to physical health and safety—and office workers, whose mental health and ergonomics may be a greater concern.
Thus, we maintain high standards in health and safety, and work proactively to help employees maintain and improve mental health.
Health and safety highlights in 2022
120 employees participated in Diffusing Anger Training.
All managers and supervisors completed competent person training as required by the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
In addition, 100 per cent of all required Joint Health and Safety Committee meetings were held.
Joined the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board Health and Safety Excellence program.
Over 150 contracting firms submitted their health and safety programs and participated in the Safety Days eLearning course.
Diversity, equity and inclusion
Utilities Kingston is committed to providing equitable opportunities to all employees in recruitment and selection, training, development and promotion.
We recognize that these opportunities should remain unaffected by gender, race, age, ethnicity, ability and sexual orientation, in a workplace where all employees feel valued and respected and receive fair treatment with appropriate compensation and benefits.
By embracing diversity and equal opportunities, Utilities Kingston can help integrate under-represented groups and minorities into the labour market, so it becomes a better reflection of society and deepens the pool of talent that a more diverse workforce can bring.
To adapt our inclusive hiring practices, we focused on the following in 2022:
Constructing diverse interview panels of varied genders and representation from cross-functional departments.
Promoting inclusivity through diverse community outreach programs celebrating Pride Month, Indigenous Peoples and International Women’s Day, adding pronouns to email signatures and more.
In support of the above, designed a special recognition calendar to select, prioritize and plan inclusivity and other significant events.
Utilities Kingston’s diversity report highlights year-over-year progress for race/ethnicity and gender diversity, from a baseline established in 2021. View the Annual Report 2022 to see the statistics.
Giving back to our community
Through active participation in our community, our employees help maintain and enhance the City of Kingston for the benefit of all residents and businesses.
Public involvement engages the community in meaningful conversations as we better serve our customers and support Kingston as a leading, livable and inclusive city.
Through local sponsorship and community involvement, Utilities Kingston employees give back to the community we serve.