It was reported in Global News last September how the City of Vancouver wanted to Ban Natural Gas by 2050. While this has been clarified as misleading by the City, it is clear that the city has a dramatic renewable energy plan for the next 30 years. What does the plan mean for building owners, designers and operators?

The main parts of the City of Vancouver’s energy plan are highlighted in the “Greenest City 2020 Action Plan”. The City of Vancouver wants to be net-zero and use only renewable energy for buildings.

For new buildings, this means all sources of energy must come renewable sources by 2030. For existing buildings, this means that all sources of energy must come from renewable sources by 2050.

In terms of electrical energy, there will not be any drastic changes. Currently, almost all electricity in British Columbia is generated using Hydro dams. BC Hydro has indicated that 97% of their electricity generated is currently considered renewable. Therefore, because the current electricity supplied to the grid is considered renewable, no changes will occur.

On the other hand, only renewable natural gas will be allowed under the new regulations. What is renewable Natural gas? Using methane capture devices, Fortis captures waste methane gas from landfills, farms, and waste water treatment plants and refines it for distribution to homes and businesses.

The problem is that the premium of renewable natural gas is quite high at $7/GJ on top of the cost of delivery of natural gas. When that cost is compared to residential ($9/GJ delivered) and business ($7/GJ delivered) cost of natural gas, it becomes clear that renewable natural gas would essentially double the cost of the natural gas currently available.

Mechanically, the implementation of this regulation is going to mean a switch from natural gas heating in new buildings in the City of Vancouver to heating by electric baseboards, heat pumps or other electrical methods in the next decade.

Although there will be more supply of renewable natural gas occuring in the next few years, the cost premium is still going to be present because the demand will be great, especially from existing buildings.

For the rest of the Lower Mainland, it’s not clear if the same thing will happen. Provincially, BC has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% below 2007 levels by 2050, but there currently is not a structured plan in place for how this will happen.

Going forward, it is clear that significant changes to mechanical systems will be required to meet the new renewable energy regulations coming into effect in 2030.

This article is based in part on BC Comfort’s BUILDEX Session “Mechanical Mega Trends for 2017”. If you are interested in having this session presented in your office, please contact our Design team BC Comfort.