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City of Vancouver Zero Emissions Building Plan

In July 2016, the City of Vancouver adopted a Zero Emissions Building Plan that requires most new buildings in Vancouver to have zero operational greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

The plan calls for the return to electricity-powered baseboard and hot water heating and development of biomass (woodwaste) fueled district energy systems. This plan combined with the Renewable Energy Plan and the Green Buildings Policy for Rezonings will effectively eliminate natural gas in new buildings by 2030 and in existing buildings by 2050.

FortisBC energy solutions director Jason Wolfe describes the impacts of the implementation of the Green Buildings Policy for Rezoning on May 1, 2017, and what this means for residential customers, as well as builders

How the City of Vancouver policies restricts natural gas use

A. Sidewall venting is no longer permitted for single-family homes, duplexes or townhouses with gas furnaces or boilers, resulting in costly retrofits or installations. View policy.

B. New low-rise and high-rise buildings in district energy zones are not allowed to have in-suite heating, which includes natural gas fireplaces.

C. Heat your space or water: to meet the City's targets, you won't be able to do both. Switching to electric space and water heating will cost approximately $550 more per suite annually.* View policy.

COV infographic
COV infographic

D. Updates to the Green Buildings Policy for Rezoning restricts natural gas use, and although 9 out of 10 chefs prefer cooking with natural gas, that choice will disappear. View policy.

E. The City of Vancouver's targets will likely compel developers to install electric water heaters, which are more expensive to run as natural gas is typically about 1/3 the cost of electricity. View policy.

F. Depending on where you live, your building will have to connect to the Neighbourhood Energy Utility, which means you may not be able to use natural gas for space and water heating. View policy.

G. Renewable natural gas is an innovative, carbon neutral energy source that we provide through our natural gas system. If gas piping is not installed in buildings, customers can't choose this low emission energy source. View policy.

COV infographic

How this affects you

RNG infographic

Reduced Choice – The City would require that most new buildings be built without natural gas. While they have suggested that biogas will replace natural gas, there is simply not enough supply. Even if we could provide renewable natural gas for the entire city, by the time we have enough available, you won’t find any homes with a gas range in the kitchen, a gas fireplace in in the living room or a BBQ on the deck because the City will have had them removed.

If renewable natural gas is the only natural gas allowed in Vancouver, where will it come from?

Today, we have about 108,000 customers in the City of Vancouver who use conventional natural gas. If the City of Vancouver’s Renewable City Strategy requires all of those customers to switch to renewable natural gas, we would need to produce about 26 million GJ of renewable natural gas.

RNG infographic

How this affects industry

Paul Miles, President and Director of Sales, Miles Industries ltd. Manufacturer of Valor Gas Fireplaces, shares his views on the City of Vancouver's policies. He says they force consumers away from the locally produced natural gas fireplaces, to imported, electric fireplaces that are primarily decorative.

Chad Euverman, President and Owner of Eco King Heating , tells how his natural gas boiler business will be impacted by the City of Vancouver’s policies  that restrict natural gas use. The majority of Eco King’s customers are based in Vancouver, and as a result the company could lose jobs and see their sales decrease. With today’s gas-fired space heating systems being up to 95 per cent efficient, and since natural gas is one-third the cost of electricity, these policies also mean that homeowners’ costs for heating their home and hot water will increase.

Richard Cheng, Project Manager for Regent International Development , gives his perspective on how the City of Vancouver policies will impact both developers and residents. With fewer heating options available to homeowners, they will be forced to switch from natural gas to more expensive electric heating. Increased development costs will also be passed on to future Vancouver homeowners, who are already facing ongoing affordability issues.

Increased Cost - Natural gas is one-third the cost of electricity. The City of Vancouver’s plan to prevent regular natural gas and require you to adopt electrical heating will increase your heating and hot water costs by an estimated 11% - that is about $1,500 a year for a family of four.

The city-designated neighbourhood energy systems (biofuel) proposal will further result in reduced choice for residents and businesses. The BC Utilities Commission (the independent regulator) has ruled that such franchises are not in the best interests of British Columbians.

In addition, heating common areas of buildings will also increase. These costs will be passed on to the residents through increased strata fees or business lease rates.

We support energy choice and reducing greenhouse gas emissions - not restricting fuel choice and increased costs

FortisBC believes in helping our customers use energy more efficiently. That's why we've provided $80-million in incentives, through our energy conservation programs, to our residential and business customers across BC over the last three years. Within the City of Vancouver, our customers took advantage of $4.7 million of these incentives in 2014 and 2015. The result? Cutting greenhouse gas emissions by more than 9,200 tonnes each year – the equivalent of removing about 1,920 cars from the road.

According to the City of Vancouver’s plan, by 2050 the City would force all 108,000 natural gas customers in Vancouver to transition to other energy sources. This could have a substantial impact on you by eliminating choice and costing you money to put in new heat and cooking solutions.

The combination of the plans proposed and already passed by the City of Vancouver results in reducing choice and increasing costs for Vancouverites by effectively banning natural gas.

Standing up for you

Given the potential negative impacts of this plan, we believe the policies adopted by the City of Vancouver are not in the public or our customers’ interest. It takes away choice and will cost you money.

Have your voice heard

If you agree, stand up and be heard. Here are a few options available to express your concerns.

*For a low-rise multi-unit residential building, the $550 increase in annual utility and maintenance costs consists of $180/year in additional electricity costs and $370/year in equipment replacement contributions. Energy use intensity is assumed to be reduced from 130 to 110 kilowatt hours per square meter per year, with a greenhouse gas emission reduction from 12.5 to 0 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent per square metre per year. The City of Vancouver archetype used for a low-rise building consists of 50,600 square feet with 47 suites. No suite electrical base load consumption and electrical demand cost was included in determining energy costs. The split in electrical consumption between suite electricity and strata electricity was assumed to be 51% suite and 49% strata. The April 2017 rate for electricity and natural gas has been used to determine energy costs, with the number of low-rise units impacted based on City of Vancouver development permits issued for 2016. FortisBC Rate 2 was used to determine building consumption costs, with the BC Hydro residential rate used for suite electricity consumption cost only. BC Hydro medium general service was used to determine strata electricity consumpion costs. The 5,542 dwelling units expected to be impacted by greenhouse gas performance targets was based on City of Vancouver new building permits issued in 2016.

Opinion: Energy policy must be a provincial discussion

Read BC Chamber of Commerce's view in the Vancouver Sun on how the cost of energy is among the biggest issues affecting small businesses across BC.

Vancouver's plan will hurt residents and local businesses

Read Business Council of British Columbia's blog on how City of Vancouver's Green Building Policy for Rezoning, once implemented, will exacerbate the affordability challenge for those people residing in Vancouver.

BC Election 2017: Liberals promise to strip Vancouver's power to restrict natural gas use

Andrew Wilkinson, Liberal candidate for Vancouver-Quilchena, said a Liberal government would change the legislation that lets the city set its own building code, called the Vancouver Charter, and remove its ability to crackdown on the use of fossil fuels like natural gas. Read the full article in the Vancouver Sun.

Vancouver begins controversial restrictions on natural gas

Read the Globe and Mail article which discusses how all developments require a rezoning in City of Vancouver will have to comply with new standards that will restrict natural gas and could end up costing consumers three times as much as they pay now.

CKNW Energy Series: Phasing out non-renewable natural gas

Listen to CKNW's Energy Series as Janet Brown and Jon Hall speak with both Doug Smith, director of sustainability for City of Vancouver and Jason Wolfe, director of energy solutions at FortisBC.

Vancouver's vision is simply fossil foolery

Read Fabian Dawson's article in The Province on Vancouver's Renewable City Strategy claiming it to be ambitious, unrealistic and fossil foolery that will make the community unffordable to work and live in.

Vancouver’s renewable energy goals require bolder action: report

SFU’s school of Energy and Materials Research examined the City of Vancouver’s Renewable City Strategy. See their study.

Vancouver's Renewable City plan may be unworkable: study

Read Business in Vancouver's article on how the City's plan to be 100% renewable by 2050 appears unrealistic.

City's 'green' bylaw will add more costs to new homes

Read Business in Vancouver's article on how City of Vancouver's new green buildings rezoning policy will drive new home prices higher.

Energy efficiency updates to Vancouver's Building Bylaw and related additional changes

Letter to Mayor and Council regarding the updates to Vancouver's Building Bylaw being proposed for multi-family bulidings less than seven storeys, as well as the Green Policy for Rezonings.

City of Vancouver's plan to phase out non-renewable natural gas not good for local business: critics

Watch Global BC's news story featuring a local manufacturing business's response to the City of Vancouver's plan to eliminate all fossil fueled natural gas based products from new homes and buildings by 2030.

Motion to Commit to Affordable Energy in the City of Vancouver

Letter to Mayor and Council in support of the motion put forth by Councillor De Genova, which commits the City of Vancouver to affordable energy.

Updates to Green Buildings Policy for Rezonings

Letter to Mayor and Council expressing our concern of Green Building Policy for Rezonings changes implemented in a short time frame and are based upon the overarching Renewable City Strategy and Net Zero Buildings Plan.

Rezoning Applications

Letter to Mayor and Council with comments on November 15, 2016 6:00pm City of Vancouver Council public hearing.

Proposed Green Buildings Policy for Rezonings

Letter to Sean Pander, Green Building Policy Manager to voice our concern in supporting the proposed Green Buildings Policy for Rezonings to be implemented in 2017.

Zero Emissions Building Plan

Letter to Mayor and Council to express our concern of the proposed Zero Emissions Building Plan policy report under consideration which has the potential to increase costs for energy users in the city.