British Columbia

Richmond councillor says full steam ahead for geothermal power

The City of Richmond is leading the way with renewable energy by heating thousands of units with geothermal power.

Harold Steves believes the project could compete with Site C to provide sustainable energy

Richmond hopes to expand the reach of its geothermal power project.

The City of Richmond currently heats thousands of homes and businesses with geothermal power, but Coun. Harold Steves is pushing for the project's reach to grow exponentially.

Over 3,000 units of both commercial and residential space are being heated sustainably in the area around Cambie and Garden City roads.

"We anticipate in the near future that we'll have instead of 3,100 ...12,000 units as new housing is built and as we expand the program," Steves told CBC's On The Coast host Steven Quinn. 

The Lulu Island Energy Corporation responsible for this endeavour is a subsidiary of the city, run by city councillors, who hope to have the project paid off in the next 17 years.

Removing electric heat

The idea is to remove the need for electric and baseboard heaters in modern apartment buildings and get the city running on more affordable geothermal power.

"This is a heat pump, but because it's on a major plant it doesn't use a lot of electricity, it eliminates the need for electricity," Steves said.

The system relies on a network of 3,400 metres of pipes that carry heated water from deep below the earth's surface, feeding into a central plant that directs the heat to apartment buildings and office complexes.

Future jobs

In the future, Steves envisions potentially powering all of downtown Richmond with geothermal heat, a project that would provide about 650 jobs over 30 years.

"When we talk about 1,000 jobs or a couple of thousand jobs at Site C for 10 years, we're providing those kinds of jobs for the next 30 years," he said, adding that he thinks the cost and impact of the giant hydroelectric dam is unwarranted when Richmond is seeing such success at the local level.

Systems included in city development

Plans to use geothermal power are included in the design for the new city centre, which envisions nodes of highrise apartments, all heated by sustainable energy.

"Our objective right now… is to reduce our energy needs in all of Richmond by 11 per cent by 2041. That's only 23 years away and we're halfway there," Steves said.

To hear the full interview with Richmond mayor Harold Steves listen to media below:

With files from the CBC's On The Coast