Toronto's film, TV industry can plug into green energy through city's power grid

·3 min read
Toronto Mayor John Tory announces a new program to give film and television production crews access to power drops in two city parks. The move will make it easier for the crews to access clean electricity off the grid rather than burn diesel fuel to power their cast and production trailers.  (Martin Trainor/CBC - image credit)
Toronto Mayor John Tory announces a new program to give film and television production crews access to power drops in two city parks. The move will make it easier for the crews to access clean electricity off the grid rather than burn diesel fuel to power their cast and production trailers. (Martin Trainor/CBC - image credit)

The City of Toronto is giving its growing film and television production industry the power to continue to go green.

The city announced Monday it will give production crews access to Toronto's power grid at two highly-utilized film locations — Ashbridges Bay Park and Sir Casimir Gzowski Park. The city said the plan will see production companies use its electricity grid to power things like crew trailers and offices instead of burning fossil fuels.

Mayor John Tory said the move will help reduce the city's carbon footprint by 400 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year,  the equivalent of the annual energy used by 45 homes.

"These power drops, people will see them as just an ordinary piece of infrastructure they're used to seeing all over the city," Tory said.

"But what they will do is eliminate … [the] need for the diesel generators."

The change comes as the city's film, TV and digital media production industry expects to continue to grow this year, with local studios projecting by the spring to be at capacity again this year. In 2021, the industry was responsible for a record $2.5 billion in direct spending in Toronto as the city played host to 1,468 productions and 7,800 production days.

Tory said the industry has been asking the city to help it ensure that local productions can go green. This plan is part of those efforts and will help Toronto stick to its plan to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2040, he added.

"This might seem like a small example … but these are all things that will contribute to the achievement of this long-range environmental goal," Tory said.

'Toronto is showing leadership'

John Rakich, a locations manager and a representative from the Directors Guild of Canada, said Toronto is the first jurisdiction in Canada to make power drops available to film and TV productions, giving it a competitive advantage.

"Toronto is showing leadership with this," he said.

"The film and television production industry, locally and globally, is intent on developing more sustainable production practices."

Shawn Jeffords/CBC
Shawn Jeffords/CBC

Rakich said even if film crews aren't shooting at either park, they will likely plan to set up base camps at the locations for their cast and crew trailers to use the clean electricity.

"This is immensely helpful," he said.

"If you've ever seen any of the units we have parked, they're big and it's a lot of power being drawn, so I'd rather have it come from green sources than from diesel."

The city said it isn't just the film and television industry that will benefit from the program; the power drops will also be available to local events, food trucks and other users.

The city's film office will measure the use of electricity at the drops and will bill individual companies who utilize them, staff said.

The Toronto Environmental Alliance said the program is a positive step and will make a dent in the city's carbon emissions. But the city needs to adopt the same approach to cutting fossil fuel use on a broader scale if it wants to meet its climate change targets, said Sarah Buchanan, the alliance's campaigns director.

"Diesel is a great place to start because it's such a dirty fuel," she said.

"We do need to be making these same changes in our buildings, in our vehicles. If this is the only step we're taking, that's not as positive."