City of Vancouver votes to ban natural gas by 2050

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Vancouver city council votes to ban natural gas
In its efforts to become the greenest city in the world, Vancouver city council has moved to ban natural gas from homes and restaurants. Ted Chernecki has more on this controversial decision – Sep 22, 2016

You might cook with it and heat your house with it today, but by 2050, no one in the City of Vancouver will be using natural gas.

The decision was made in July as part of its Renewable City Strategy. The plan calls for a ban of natural gas, meaning no new buildings can use it and old buildings must be retrofitted to use renewable energy.

Restaurants, businesses, schools, and factories must all comply. That will translate into some hefty bills for consumers.

“We’re talking about a cost imposed on residential, industrial, commercial, and institutional users of natural gas in thousands and thousands of dollars,” Jordan Bateman, B.C. director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said.

“For the average family, we’re talking about $1,400 a year or more just in the energy bills from shifting to electricity, let alone ripping out furnaces or water heaters. Restaurants are going to be hurt if they use natural gas and schools are facing a $3.5 million bill in higher energy costs if they’re forced to move off natural gas.”

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For restaurants, the problem is vastly apparent. Ninety-nine per cent of all restaurants cook with natural gas due to the need for high heat.

“Gas is more faster and the heat is stronger, more powerful,” said one chef interviewed by Global News.

“The question I asked the city when we found about this, inadvertently, is how are we going to handle this?” Ian Tostenson of the B.C. Restaurant Association said. “And no one knows. So I’m angry because it creates uncertainty for the small business person, which is not right.”

Phasing out natural gas means consumers must shift to renewable forms of energy, like electricity, which costs upwards of three times more than gas, or methane gas.

The goal is included in the city’s plan to be a carbon-free city by 2050.

Data from the city says 45 per cent of energy used in Vancouver is from natural gas used for building heating. By 2050, they say 40 per cent of buildings will have been replaced and built to carbon-neutral standards. The remaining older buildings will need to undergo hefty retrofits to bring their standards up to those of new construction.

Mayor Gregor Robertson hopes there will be a 70 per cent reduction in natural gas use by 2020 and 90 per cent reduction by 2050.

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The plan will cut city-wide building energy use by 30 per cent compared to 2014.

But the city has said their plan isn’t an all-out ban.

“We have not banned natural gas. We have no plans to ban natural gas,” Sadhu Johnston, Vancouver city manager, said.

He wouldn’t confirm whether the plan will mean builders and consumers will be unable to get permits to install fire places, gas furnaces, or stoves in the near future.

“$9 billion is the estimated cost of building dikes and preparing our community for rising sea levels. So will taxpayers be on the hook for climate change? It’s going to cost us a lot of money,” said Johnston.

Regardless of the city’s reasoning, residents of Vancouver are surprised.

“It’s April Fools right? You’ve got to be kidding,” said one resident.

Regular usages of natural gas:

  • Gas stove tops and ovens
  • Gas-fueled barbecues
  • Gas fireplaces
  • Home furnaces
  • Water heaters
  • Patio heat lamps
  • Pool heaters
  • Vancouver’s Olympic Cauldron

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