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• Jun 7, 2022

Officially, the massive concrete anaerobic digester across the street from the Toronto Zoo on the eastern tip of Canada's largest city is known as the ZooShare Biogas Project.

But around the offices of Oshawa Power, it's sometimes known as the 'Zoo Poo' project.

That's because the 16,454 square foot biogas project – the first of its kind in Canada – is designed to transform animal manure and local food waste, collected from various food retailers and restaurants, into renewable power that can be distributed through the Ontario power grid and to also help the Toronto Zoo significantly reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

At the core of the project is a 15,000-ton concrete “stomach” that biodegrades the manure and food waste, creating natural gas, which in turn is harnessed to produce electrical and thermal energy. The electrical energy is distributed through the power grid, while the thermal energy is used to run the plant.

The ZooShare Biogas Project is a joint collaboration between the Toronto Zoo, ZooShare – a renewable energy cooperative with more than 600 members – and EnerFORGE, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Oshawa Power.

“The ZooShare Project is one of the smart green innovation projects we’re enabling through our work with our partners," said Ivano Labricciosa, President and CEO, of Oshawa Power.

“I like to say we’re one of those companies that delivers on the promise of creating positive changes. We are doing neat and innovative projects through partnerships to really make it happen. We can’t do it alone, and we’re open to exploring opportunities with partners; you need various expertise and perspectives at the table to solve problems.”

According to Labricciosa, the ZooShare Biogas Project is only in its first phase but already produces enough energy to offset the equivalent of up to 30% of the Toronto Zoo's energy use, while reducing up to 20,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) – which includes methane and other GHGs – by diverting organic waste from landfills.

Of course, that's not the only green energy project Oshawa Power is currently involved with as a part of its green technology and environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals.

Through its subsidiaries, Oshawa Power invests in a variety of green energy projects, from windmill farms in the Ontario city of Quinte West, to solar farms and a significant investment in vehicle electrification with electric vehicle charging stations throughout the City of Oshawa, located east of Toronto, as well as discussions for a pilot project for electric buses in Durham Region.

"We're evolving within the energy space, by investing in sustainability technology and projects to support needs, and help deal with climate change and the environment," Labricciosa said.

TD helping its clients on the path towards net-zero

According to David Pinsonneault, Executive Vice President of Business Banking, TD clients are increasingly looking to the Bank for banking and financing support as they prepare to launch new green energy projects and other initiatives aimed at reducing their GHG emissions.

For many of those clients, they're not waiting for a mandate to transition to a low-carbon future, they're seeking financing today to assist them with initiatives that are designed to help them towards a green future, Pinsonneault said.

"On the path to a low-carbon future, there are lots of unknowns, but our clients don't see this as a reason to wait," he said.

Oshawa Power is just one Business Banking client TD is working with who are looking at sustainable, green and low-carbon projects aimed at reducing their GHG emissions.

In 2020, TD revealed an ambitious Climate Action Plan, which includes its commitment to reaching net-zero GHG emissions by 2050. For TD, "net-zero" means the Bank either emits no GHGs or offsets its emissions by removing the equivalent amount of GHGs from the air through, for example, funding carbon removals by direct air capture technologies or large-scale forestation projects.

The next stage of the Bank's Climate Action Plan is focused on helping the businesses it finances reduce their GHG emissions.

Financing clients' efforts to reduce GHG emissions from their operations

One way TD is helping Business Banking clients is through the creation of the TD Environmental Lending Program, which Pinsonneault said is available to businesses across all industries to support various initiatives aimed at helping customers reduce their carbon footprint.

Eligible initiatives under the Environmental Lending Program range from lighting retrofits to activities eliminating waste, span a variety of categories, including energy retrofit projects, renewable energy projects, pollution prevention and control, waste prevention, reduction and recycling, and clean transportation.

Pinsonneault said that the Business Bank's deep equipment-financing knowledge, coupled with its ability to provide flexible credit structures, allows TD to offer customized lending solutions when financing environmental transition activities, which may include longer term and/or amortization periods or repayment terms.

"Our goal is to help them finance projects that are designed to help achieve a reduction in our customer's emissions," Pinsonneault said.

Pinsonneault said that while many larger firms already have ESG plans in place, he's seeing an ever-increasing number of small- to medium-sized companies developing sustainability initiatives who are looking to lenders like TD to help provide banking services and financing to support them through their transition.

In addition to financing options under the Environmental Lending Program, the Bank has also started offering sustainability-linked loans (SLL) to eligible borrowers. The pricing on these loans is adjusted upward or downward upon achievement of certain pre-determined, mutually agreed and independently validated sustainability performance targets.

ESG is no longer optional, but rather a growing concern for the C-suite

According to Amy West – Managing Director and Global Head of TD Securities' Sustainable Finance and Corporate Transitions group – sustainable finance, or socially responsible investing, is not a new philosophy. What's changed are the expectations; organizations are increasingly searching for ways to stay true to their values.

"We're seeing a fundamental change in sustainable finance," she said.

"Stakeholders are realizing that ESG Is not a 'nice to have' option, but increasingly viewed as a significant financial risk for any organization. It's a growing concern for C-suite executives across the board."

West said that when she speaks to clients, it's clear to her that there is a growing consensus around the idea that the world must reach net-zero by 2050.

"The debate is no longer 'is this the right decision or not'," she said. "You're now seeing a huge focus by businesses on how they need to transition their businesses to a low-carbon economy."

West said that for many organizations looking to green their operations, or transition to a low-carbon future, starting out can be a bit overwhelming. It's okay to not have all the answers right away, she said.

West said that the most innovative companies she deals with look to their own transitions to a low-carbon future as an opportunity to grow their business.

"We believe that clients who understand the opportunities presented by a net-zero world will be not only more competitive, but arguably better performers over time," she said.

As for David Pinsonneault, he said he's optimistic about the low-carbon future of Canadian industries as more and more businesses look to invest in green initiatives for their businesses and work to reduce their GHG emissions.

"This collective feeling is what I think is the most encouraging part of the movement towards lowering carbon emissions in Canada and around the world," he said.

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