- On November 29, 2016 FortisBC supported the motion, in front of City of Vancouver council, which would commit to affordable energy and ensure natural gas stays in Vancouver.
- On November 28, 2016 FortisBC was made aware of several concerned residents and business owners who had contacted City Hall about the Renewable Energy Plan. Some of them have received misleading emails in response.
- On November 1, 2016 the City of Vancouver introduced the Green Buildings Policy for Rezonings, part of the Zero Emissions Building Plan which was passed by City Council in July 2016. The policy was approved on November 29, 2016. Buildings rezoned after May 2017 will now require a 50% greenhouse gas emission reduction—effectively eliminating natural gas from rezoned buildings. To comply, these buildings will be forced to adopt electricity for space heating or to connect a City-recognized neighbourhood energy system.
- FortisBC believes that reducing emissions is an important goal and can be achieved by increasing energy efficiency and developing new technologies. Eliminating energy choices such as natural gas will only increase costs for energy customers.
Customer affordability, choice impacted by plan to eliminate natural gas use
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, combined with other policies such as the Renewable Energy Plan, will effectively eliminate natural gas in new buildings by 2030, and in existing buildings by 2050.
Innovation limited by the City’s policy
Under the plan, residents and homeowners will be restricted to only a small number of energy sources. While biogas and geothermal options are supported by the City, adapting baseboard heating to these renewable energy options is difficult and costly. And while district energy systems can be a viable solution in certain circumstances, currently-allowed in-building natural gas boiler systems are generally more efficient and lower cost.
The BC Utilities Commission is the independent regulator that looks at the impacts on energy customers in terms of cost. They recently ruled against the City’s proposal for mandatory energy hook ups and limiting choice when it declined to approve a Neighbourhood Energy Agreement reached between the City of Vancouver and a private company, Creative Energy.
It found the City was not acting in the public interest when it created a monopoly on the supply of heat and hot water in Northeast False Creek and Chinatown areas of the city.
Preventing the connection of new buildings to our natural gas infrastructure could also create a barrier to accessing new energy technologies that could be adopted in the future. Like many, FortisBC wants to have more renewable natural gas in the mix. Right now it’s under 1% of the energy we deliver, so we aren’t able to replace all the natural gas our customers use with renewable natural gas. We believe this will grow over time. That means our customers will need to be able to access renewable natural gas via pipe, or some form of delivery system. New technologies, and those currently under development, will also need access to energy delivery systems.
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 incentives in 2014 and 2015, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by more than 9,200 tonnes each year – the equivalent of removing about 1920 cars from the road.
The need for additional consultation
We’ve expressed our concerns regarding the Zero Emissions Building Plan to the City of Vancouver, writing and presenting to Mayor and Council. Our position is that policy changes of this magnitude—and which negatively impact affordability, consumer choice and future innovation—should be subject to broader consultation before being implemented.
View our correspondence to City of Vancouver:
If you agree, here are a few options available to express your concerns.