Quebec bans oil heating in new homes starting Dec. 31

The province is looking to phase out oil and gas heating and legislation that bans oil-powered furnaces in new construction comes into effect Dec. 31. By the end of 2023, fossil fuels will no longer be allowed to be used to heat new buildings or be repaired or replaced.

As of 2023, new or replacement heating systems powered by fossil fuels banned

Rebates are available for SaskEnergy customers wanting to upgrade their old furnace with a high efficiency furnace.
A high-efficiency natural gas furnace, hot water heater and air conditioning system is installed at a home in Ossining, N.Y. In Quebec, the replacement and installation of heating systems powered by fossil fuels will be banned by December 31, 2023. (Craig Ruttle/The Associated Press)

As of Dec. 31, oil-powered heating is banned in all new construction projects across Quebec, part of the province's push to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In two years, Quebec will go a step further by making it illegal to replace existing oil furnaces with any sort of heating system powered by fossil fuels after Dec. 31, 2023,

The new rules were laid out in a ministerial decree on oil and gas heating passed in late November. 

Cendrix Bouchard, a spokesperson for Hydro-Québec, says it's a step in the right direction and says the utility has the resources to meet increased demand.

"We will supply the new residential customers and businesses with the electricity they need in order to meet their needs."

The new decree also bans the repair of heating systems running on fuel that are more than 20-years-old and oil-powered water heaters that are more than 10-years-old.

"They will use more electricity," said Bouchard of those who have to make the switch to electric heating. "However, their energy consumption bill will not increase because our rates are among the lowest in North America."

"Also, there's a competitive advantage of electricity over oil. One cost, though, will be replacing the equipment."

For Quebecers looking to retrofit their home heating system, Bouchard says Hydro-Québec offers financial assistance through its efficient heat pump program and the government offers a similar program called Chauffez vert.

Homeowners need to do a bit of research on the two programs, the heat pumps that will work for their homes and submit their project to see if they qualify for funding.

Cendrix Bouchard, a spokesperson for Hydro-Québec, says with access to so much renewable, hydrolectric power the province is heading in the direction by making a shift towards electric heating. (CBC)

Province wants to slash building emissions 

Quebec says more than 200,000 homes across the province are still heated by fossil fuel and heating accounts for more than 60 per cent of household emissions.

The government believes the new measures will help it hit its target of reducing emissions related to heating buildings by 50 per cent by 2030. Right now, it says oil furnaces generate around a million tonnes of CO2 every year — the equivalent of greenhouse gas emissions from 300,000 cars.

On top of CO2 emissions, oil combustion in heating systems also generates nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide and other fine particles that can be harmful to the environment.

The latest available data shows that the province is still lagging behind when it comes to reducing its emissions and will need to make considerable changes if it wants to meet its climate targets.

Bouchard says it's easier than ever to track how much energy you use, thanks to apps and new technology. 

"The biggest advice I can always give to people is, if you want to act on your consumption, you have to understand how you consume," he said.

"Heating will represent roughly 50 per cent of your hydro bill."

By switching to electric thermostats, lowering the temperature in rooms that aren't being used and turning the heating off or way down when you're away, he says people can save themselves some money.

Since over 99 per cent of Quebec's electricity is generated by hydroelectric dams, Bouchard says the province is doing the right thing by embracing a shift to electric heating.

"We're expecting an increase of 12 per cent between now and 2029 and it's due to energy transition," he said.

With files from La Presse Canadienne

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