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Town of Raymond

Raymond: The Town “Where Champions Live” Continues to Set Records

Long known for its sporting prowess, Raymond now shines in the spotlight of sustainability becoming Alberta's first net-zero town
Kurtis Pratt, CEO of Raymond | Town of Raymond

Raymond stands out in a crowd.

Hardworking, a little unconventional, always pushing for first. 

Everybody loves Raymond — or else they hate Raymond — but there is no indifference.”

We’re not talking about a person or a TV sitcom.

We’re talking about a small town on the southern edge of Alberta – with an offbeat reputation all its own.

Raymond, a rural gem that more and more people are proud to call home, prides itself on the motto, “Where Champions Live.” 

That slogan might make you roll your eyes, especially if you’re from a neighbouring town that sees itself as a rival. But, honestly, Raymond backs up its big talk.

And here’s a fun tidbit for you: Kurtis Pratt, the big boss over in Raymond as the Chief Administrative Officer, wasn’t always singing the town’s praises either – until he moved there and experienced the ‘champion’ attitude!

It Started with Sports 

Having grown up in nearby Lethbridge, Pratt told The Financial Post he was most familiar with Raymond’s pride and joy – their sports team, the Comets.

Obviously, one of Lethbridge’s biggest competitors.

Football and basketball are cornerstones of Raymond’s “Champion” mentality. The community regularly beats out larger cities like Edmonton and Calgary for provincial titles. 

After investing millions in a state-of-the-art football stadium, among other fancy sporting facilities – more and more families have been drawn to add themselves to the town’s formerly dwindling population.

Many saw their massive investments in the stadium and other facilities as a big risk.

However, with a growing population every year since – it’s paid off.

While on a roll in finding innovative ways to make their town stand out – municipal leaders ended up hitting first in a whole new ballpark.

Raymond’s first-class football field | Town of Raymond
Raymond’s first-class football field | Town of Raymond

Keeping The Energy Up

Here’s the thing about building those big, flashy sports complexes like football stadiums, ice rinks, and swimming pools – they gobble up a huge amount of energy. 

Greg Robinson, Community Development Director | Town of Raymond
Greg Robinson, Community Development Director | Town of Raymond

And when the energy bills come in, they’re not exactly making the town’s finances look great, especially for a small town with just over 4,000 residents. 

So, to tackle these skyrocketing costs, the town got creative in a way that no other Canadian town has before.

Greg Robinson, who’s in charge of Community and Economic Development in Raymond, shared on the Rural Spark Podcast that their town got the idea of energy innovation when they heard that the neighbouring town of Cardiff was considering installing solar panels on their community center. 

Even though Raymond’s Town Council was initially skeptical about switching to renewable energy – having been advised against it by past consultants, they couldn’t ignore what was happening in Cardiff.

After all, both towns share a similar geographical setup. And they were ‘competitors.’

Robinson explained, “Particularly in Alberta, we are traditionally known for oil and this kind of breaks that mold a little bit.” But seeing Cardiff take the leap made them curious. “We thought, obviously if they can do it, we can do it.” With that spark of rivalry, Raymond decided to bring in new consultants to crunch the numbers.

Initially, their goal wasn’t to achieve net-zero energy; they just wanted to be more responsible with their energy use. “Originally, it wasn’t the goal to be net-zero; it was just to sort of cover it off and be responsible,” Robinson said. 

However, as they looked into it more, the benefits became too significant to ignore. “Municipalities are looking at this all over the place. When the numbers came in for us, it just made utter sense.”

That was the turning point. Raymond saw a strategy that was too good to overlook. So, they grabbed the energy ball with both hands and made a rush for the goal.

A Level Up

Solar power is a hefty investment up front, so Raymond started consulting with the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre in Alberta (MCCAC) for advice and to navigate available grants and programs.

“The MCCAC was a key partner for us. Small municipalities don’t have that depth of technical experience or staff. And because they’re [MCCAC] at arm’s length from the province, there’s a lot of trust implied with our relationship with them,” Robinson told Green Energy Futures.

“The $634,000 we were able to access was pretty much all carbon tax dollars.”

With the funding, they could cover the costs of transitioning to solar for more than just the one building they planned for – so the town decided to go big.

They started installing solar panels on the aquatic centre, fire hall, and golf course clubhouse – and just kept going from there.

Today, they have solar panels installed on six municipal facilities and the water treatment center, which provides all the water for Raymond and four neighbouring towns. 

They also set up a 383-kilowatt solar canopy in the parking lot of that fancy football field – the most extensive installation of its kind in North America.

Just like that, the town was functioning at net zero!

“Those eight buildings cover everything the town uses for electricity…streetlights, buildings, libraries.”

This made them the first-ever net-zero municipality in Alberta, far ahead of the province’s 2050 net-zero goal.

“There’s this sense of we love being first, and so this really throws this spin cause it’s really not related to sports or those kinds of recreational things. This is really about investing in Raymond’s future,” said Robinson.

“Years from now is when the magic really happens.”

Greg Robinson under Raymond’s Solar Canopy | David Dodge | Green Energy Futures
Greg Robinson under Raymond’s Solar Canopy | David Dodge | Green Energy Futures

The Real Pay-Off

For the next ten years, Raymond will continue to pay about the same amount annually to pay off the initial lease and investment in solar panels as they would have per year in traditional energy bills.

“It is very capital intensive off the front, but it is a long-term play,” said Robinson.

When those initial costs are fully paid off in 2033, Raymond will keep the lights on for free.

Not only that, but they’ll be generating revenue by selling surplus electricity back to the grid for an estimated $150,000 annual profit.

According to the town council, all those profits will pour right back into the community.

“Is it lowering taxes, is it improving programming, is it investing in infrastructure… those are all options.”

However, the true motivator for the town lies not in the financial gains.

Taking Local Control

It comes back to the community’s mentality of wanting to succeed and take care of themselves without having to rely on outside factors.

“We’re putting ourselves in the driver’s seat when it comes to our electrical needs,” said Robinson.

When it comes to the aforementioned skeptics out there, Raymonites don’t give them much airtime.

“There is a misnomer in terms of solar that it needs to be super bright and sunny,” says Robinson.

“We know what these panels are capable of generating…we don’t use any batteries at all… and we will definitely be able to hit our mark and our target of being net-zero.”

Through pushing past boundaries and, as Robinson put it, “rhetoric,” Raymond has both talked their talk and walked their walk.

“We have this small town that punches above its weight mentality,” Kurtis Pratt, Raymond’s CEO, said “Whether it is sport — or whatever else — it is a mentality of, ‘Why can’t we do it?’”

And through questioning whether they could, they’ve shown many of the former naysayers of the town’s approach that this is indeed possible – opening doors for others.

According to Trina Innes, executive director of the MCCAC, since Raymond sent this curveball out of left field, “We now have ten electrically net-zero municipalities in Alberta.”

Raymonites have proved their winning mentality by being the first through the gate; we’ll see what comes next for “The Champions.”

Maybe it’s another community’s turn to give them a run for their money.

But watch out, Raymond takes competition seriously!

An aerial view over Raymond | The Financial Post
An aerial view over Raymond | The Financial Post

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