British Columbia

City of Vancouver clarifies its position on natural gas in new buildings

According to the city, buildings are the city's largest source of emissions — accounting for 56 per cent of all emissions in 2014.

Reports of an all-out ban on natural gas are unfounded, says city manager Sadhu Johnson

All new homes built after 2020 will be required to be zero emission. (CBC)

The City of Vancouver is clarifying its position on the use of natural gas in the construction of new homes and buildings. 

The response comes after accusations that the city had "banned" all natural gas from use in future buildings. 

"It's a little alarmist to say we're banning natural gas and people need to eliminate boilers in their homes," said city manager Sadhu Johnston.

Earlier this year, city council passed a motion to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, including the use of fossil-fuel-based natural gas, from all new homes and other buildings by 2030. 

"What we're trying to do is to find more green gas to put in the system, build more energy-efficient buildings and use more of the green gas that's out there."

Green natural gas, also known as renewable natural gas, is derived from the breakdown of organic materials and wastewater. 

The Zero Emissions Building Plan was discussed at council on July 12 and at a public hearing on July 13. The plan is part of the Renewal City Strategy, passed in November 2015, which aims to power the city with only renewable energy sources by 2050.

The city's strategy also focuses on reducing the need for energy by constructing more efficient buildings. 

According to the city, buildings are Vancouver's largest source of greenhouse gas emissions — making up 56 per cent of all emissions in 2014. Of all the energy used by buildings, natural gas accounts for 26 per cent.

The city estimates that, by 2050, 40 per cent of all buildings in Vancouver will have been built after 2020 and will meet the new targets. 

In a letter sent to council in July, Fortis B.C. denounced the move, claiming it will cost an average family of four $1,500 per year in additional energy costs. The natural gas provider says it has 108,000 customers in Vancouver, with up to 1,400 new customers each year. 

"This policy is impractical and has the potential to increase costs for energy users in the city and stifle innovation over the long term," wrote Fortis B.C. president Michael Mulcahy. 

Jordan Bateman with the B.C. chapter of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation said he was "shocked" to hear of the city's move after years of governments touting natural gas as a cheaper, more environmentally-friendly source of energy.

"The price of natural gas is so much cheaper than electricity," Bateman said. "No one is going to be switching over because of price. They're going to be switching over because they're forced to. 

"When you're talking about cost of living in Vancouver ... that's got to be a big concern." 

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