The past couple days there has been somewhat of a media storm in response to an opinion piece by Jordan Bateman of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (“Taxpayers Will Shoulder Burden Of Vancouver Natural-Gas Ban,” The Province, 21-Sep-2016).
Excerpt: Lost in the hubbub over housing prices in the Lower Mainland this summer was the Vision-dominated city council rubber stamping its Renewable City Strategy, committing Vancouver to eliminating natural gas within city limits by 2050. Robertson wants a 70-per-cent cut in natural gas use by 2020, and 90 per cent gone within 10 years on new construction or renovations requiring a building permit. This will cost individual residents thousands of dollars — and was approved by Robertson and his council without any thought to the affordability crisis in Vancouver...
(Jordan Bateman, Canadian Taxpayers Federation)
Below we provide verbatim an information bulletin issued in response this morning (23-Sept) by the Corporate Communications office at City Hall, and at the bottom we provide a selection of other media coverage and related links. It seems the City could have done a better job of communicating the information initially, and that it is still a complicated story.
Clarification of City’s position on natural gas: Long-term plans call for transition to more renewable energy forms, zero emissions buildings
(Information Bulletin from City Of Vancouver Corporate Communications, 23-Sept-2016)
The City of Vancouver is not banning the use of natural gas, despite claims to the contrary in a misinformed opinion piece in The Province newspaper.
Earlier this year, Vancouver City Council adopted the Zero Emissions Building Plan – an action plan that lays out a phased approach to combat and reduce carbon pollution in Vancouver. The plan establishes specific targets and actions to achieve zero emissions in all new buildings by 2030 i.e. the plan does not focus on retro-fitting buildings. Restaurants can continue to cook with natural gas and residents are not being asked to replace their gas appliances.
[CityHallWatch note: “Earlier this year” apparently refers to the July 12 and 13, 2016, Council meetings. Click here for council agenda, policy report, staff presentation and video on “Zero Emissions Building Plan” on the 12th, and click here to see video of speakers, Council discussion, and vote on the 13th. Seven citizens spoke in favour, none against. See text of revised adopted motion, adopted unanimously by Council, at bottom.]
The Zero Emissions Building Plan is a product of Vancouver’s Renewable City Strategy (RCS), committing Vancouver to derive 100 per cent of its energy from renewable sources before 2050. Vancouver is one of many cities worldwide that have adopted 100 per cent renewable policy strategies to combat climate change.
The three core strategies in the Renewable City Strategy (approved by unanimous City Council vote in Fall 2015) include:
1. Reduce energy use through energy conservation and efficiency programs.
2. Increase the use of renewable energy (for example biomethane – renewable natural gas). The City of Vancouver powers City Hall with green gas we purchase from FortisBC.
3. Increase the supply of renewable energy and support that with new infrastructure.
[CityHallWatch note: See Regular Council November 3, 2015 for the “Renewable City Strategy” adopted.]
Fifty-eight per cent of the energy used in buildings (heat, hot water) comes from natural gas use (with the remainder from electricity); because electricity is green energy, natural gas is responsible for 96 per cent of a typical building’s greenhouse gas emissions. The phased approach laid out in the Zero Emissions Building Plan aims to reduce emissions from newly permitted buildings by 70 per cent by 2020, 90 per cent by 2025 and 100% by 2030.
[CityHallWatch note: A major assumption appears to be that all “electricity is green energy,” but that merits further discussion. For example opponents of the Site C dam would probably disagree with that claim.]
In addition to helping to combat climate change, these new building standards will also result in better quality homes that are quieter, healthier, and easier to operate and maintain.
The Zero Emissions Building Plan was brought forward after extensive consultation with designers, builders, developers, building operators and utilities. Consultation will continue as components of the plan are implemented. Stakeholders consulted (see Report to Council) included:
- · BC Hydro (co-funded research and consultation)
- · FortisBC
- · Creative Energy
- · River District Energy
- · Urban Development Institute (collaborated on establishing scope of research work and supported industry consultation to ensure representative voices from the designers, developers, builders, and suppliers for multi-unit residential buildings)
- · Greater Vancouver Home Builders Association
- · BC Ministry Responsible for Housing, Building and Safety Standards Branch
- · BC Ministry of Energy and Mines, Electricity and Alternative Energy Division
- · Staff from the cities of Richmond, New Westminster, and Surrey
- · BC Housing and the Homeowners Protection Office
- · International Building Performance Simulation Association – BC Chapter
- · Fenestration Association of BC
- · New Buildings Institute (one of the leading U.S. building energy code think tanks)
- · Pembina Institute
- · Canadian Passive House Institute
As a result of City of Vancouver green building policies there have already been significant cost savings for Vancouver residents and businesses due to less energy use in buildings. The City estimates that, relative to our 2007 baseline, Vancouver’s businesses and residents save $44 million annually in building energy costs thanks to decreasing energy use and reduced buildings emissions.
For more information about the Renewable City Strategy, visit vancouver.ca/renewable-city.
FINAL MOTION on Zero Emissions Building Plan AS ADOPTED (From minutes of Standing Committee of Council on City Finance and Services, July 13, 2016)
THAT the Committee recommend to Council
A. THAT Council approve the Zero Emissions Building Plan (attached as Appendix A
of the Policy Report dated July 5, 2016, entitled “Zero Emissions Building
Plan”), and adopt a target to reduce emissions from new buildings by 90% as
compared to 2007 by 2025 and to achieve zero emissions for all new buildings
by 2030 including intermediary time-stepped GHG emission and thermal energy
demand targets as described in the Plan.
B. THAT Council direct staff to report back with specific recommendations to
reflect the first step of these limits in the Rezoning Policy for Green Buildings
and Vancouver’s Building Bylaw along with any synergistic updates to
Neighbourhood Energy connection requirements by Q1 2017.
C. THAT Council direct staff to build all new City-owned and Vancouver Affordable
Housing Agency (VAHA) projects to be Certified to the Passive House standard
or alternate zero emission building standard, and use only low carbon fuel
sources, in lieu of certifying to LEED Gold unless it is deemed unviable by Real
Estate and Facilities Management, or VAHA respectively, in collaboration with
Sustainability and report back with recommendations for a Zero Emissions
Policy for New Buildings for all City-owned and VAHA building projects by 2018.
D. THAT Council direct staff, in consultation with industry, to develop a three
year, $1.625 million Zero Emissions Home Program for detached and row houses
($325K in 2017 from the Climate Action Rebate Incentive Program Reserve,
$650K in 2018 and $650K in 2019 from a funding source to be determined and
reported back to Council), and report back to Council with specific
recommendations for tools to catalyze leading builders to demonstrate cost
effective approaches to building zero emissions homes by 2017
E. THAT Council direct staff to engage partners, consult with stakeholders, and
report back with recommendations in 2017 on the resources and tools required
to catalyze leading developers to demonstrate cost effective approaches to
building zero emissions multi-unit residential and commercial buildings;
FURTHER THAT Council direct staff to meet with the National Research Council
(NRC) as soon as possible, prior to enacting F below, in order to access the
impartial and world-renowned expertise in building science and technology
that is offered by the NRC;
AND FURTHER THAT the City work with the NRC to achieve the City’s goals in
lowered GHG emissions and to provide the best building technologies
appropriate for the needs of Vancouver’s citizens.
F. THAT Council approves in principle $700,000 over three years ($300K in 2017,
$200K in 2018, and $200K in 2019 from the City’s 2017 Innovation Fund, subject
to Council approval of the 2017 Innovation Fund budget) towards establishing a
non-governmental Zero Emissions Building Centre of Excellence with the
mission to facilitate the compilation and dissemination of the knowledge and
skills required to design, permit, build and operate zero emission buildings in
BC, and direct staff to engage partners, secure matching funding, consult with
stakeholders and report back with recommendations for implementation in
G. THAT Council direct staff to review and recommend amendments to the City’s
bylaws, policies, and guidelines to incorporate “zero emission building related
rules” including but not limited to Official Development Plans, the Zoning and
Development By-law, Vancouver’s Building Bylaw, the Subdivision by-law and all
other applicable bylaws, policies and guidelines to remove barriers and
facilitate the development of zero emission buildings and provide them with
equal weight as other public policy objectives wherever such “zero emission
building related rules” confer discretion to a City official or board, and report
back with initial recommendations in 2017.
H. THAT Council direct staff to develop and report back in the fall of 2016 on a
plan, including educational demonstration projects in city-owned buildings, to
increase the generation and use of renewable energy such as solar.
I. THAT Council direct staff to report on the projected life cycle costs that will
result from adoption of the Zero Emissions Building Plan, any related policies,
and all future carbon reduction measures proposed by staff.
RELATED LINKS AND MEDIA
City of Vancouver clarifies its position on natural gas in new buildings
Reports of an all-out ban on natural gas are unfounded, says city manager Sadhu Johnson (CBC, 22-Sept-2016)
The story above is recommended – a clarification of several facts – and it seems to go much further than the statement issued by the City on September 23.