As the push continues to shift our country towards clean growth, and combatting climate change, a London high school was at the centre of the movement Tuesday.

Dignitaries joined school officials for a ground-breaking announcement with a focus on a clean energy future.

London West MP Kate Young announced the federal government will be giving $4.5 million to make John Paul II Catholic School the first carbon neutral school.

“Right from outset you need to look at the environment and economy at the same time,” says Young.

“This is a feather in the cap not only to the London District Catholic School Board but to London itself. This is the first school in Canada to go off the grid.”

Young hopes this is a model that can be duplicated across the country, and adds her government believes in the future. She says in talking to students, “This is what they want.”

Students from JP II agree; especially those in the environmentally-based Eco Tools club.

“We're really excited for it,” says Desiree Prudhomme. “It’s great for environment, cuts down on electricity use; we can be off the grid. We’re trying to set an example for others schools to take the lead.”

Ameresco Canada Inc, a leading energy efficiency and renewable energy company, and the London District Catholic School Board will install a micro-grid at the school.

The energy system not only will enable the school to generate and store its own energy but also will be resilient to grid outages and feed surplus energy back to the grid.

Ultimately, energy consumption will be reduced as part of the project, and almost all on-site emissions will be eliminated through the installation of a state-of-the-art geothermal system.

“We are introducing a new energy system,” says Bob McCullough, president of Ameresco Canada. “We’ll have micro-grids, solar storage, battery storage, and charging stations for electric vehicles. We’ll also have a solar carport with enough to charge the batters and electricity for the entire school.”

The goal is to use the roof of the entire school and the parking lot but not have to use up any of the greenspace.

“The timing of this was really convenient,” says Jacquie Davidson, superintendent of business at the LDCSB. “JP II, because the age...we had to replace a lot of the components anyway, so let’s replace them with new technology of the future.”

The school board will also develop a curriculum to educate students about this type of emerging energy system.

The project is expected to be completed and operational within the next 24 months.